Hawkish Outcries for Russia Sanctions “Exceedingly Dangerous”

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KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, kat@thenation.com@KatrinaNation
Publisher and editorial director of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel is president of the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord.

She said today: “While there is no question that Russia has contributed to tensions, the West should have understood that an attempt to bring Ukraine into NATO would spark deep, historical divisions within Ukraine and escalate Russian concerns. What is essentially a civil war has become a proxy war, a site of dangerous geopolitical focus.

“The hawkish outcry for more sanctions, more weapons, NATO membership for Ukraine, and an even more confrontational stance toward Russia is exceedingly dangerous and is not in our security or national interests.

“It is imperative that we embrace sober reasoning and diplomacy to end the conflict — more than 14,000 lives have already been taken. Make no mistake: There is no military solution to this conflict. Only reasoned dialogue and political settlement can put Ukraine on the path to long term stability and some semblance of peace.”

Facing Starvation and Sanctions, How Does Afghanistan Move Forward?

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 via Wikimedia Commons

Jim Lobe’s “Out of sight, out of mind: Afghanistan vanishes from U.S. news” in Responsible Statecraft states: “New data shows stunning plunge in coverage, just as the humanitarian crisis — much of it caused by Washington sanctions — peaks.” See accuracy.org news release: “As Afghans Face Starvation, U.S. and UN Sanctions Tighten the Screws.”

ZAHER WAHAB, zwahab@lclark.edu
Professor emeritus at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education, Wahab was senior adviser to the education ministry from 2002 to 2006.

He states that the U.S. government’s goal in Afghanistan was “not progress or nation-building” but rather “ideological, geopolitical, hegemonic, imperial.”

“The 20-year occupation was run with massive corruption and cronyism” leading to a hollowed state which “allowed the president and his gang to betray the nation.” Former president Ashraf Ghani recently denied widespread reports that he fled the country with over $100 million.

Wahab outlines a plan to rescue Afghanistan by forming a “really inclusive and meritocratic government,” “open the banks, reactivate the healthcare system,” expel foreign fighters and a host of other steps.

He stated that the U.S. government must take steps including:

* “Engage and recognize the Afghan government
* “Unfreeze ALL Afghan assets.
* “End ALL sanctions.
* “Cease all political, economic, diplomatic, psychological, drone, and proxy warfare against Afghanistan.
* “Provide immediate massive humanitarian assistance.
* “Return all the assets stolen in different forms by Afghans, Afghan-Americans, Americans NGOs, others.”

Food Not Bombs Wins Against City Gov Trying to Stop Free Meals; Other Battles Continue

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The city government of Fort Lauderdale has settled with the local chapter of Food Not Bombs after trying to hinder them from distributing free meals. This followed a series of legal victories by the group, see Courthouse News Service piece from August 31, 2021 “11th Circuit finds Fort Lauderdale limits on food sharing in parks unconstitutional.

The group just issued a statement: “Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs vs City of Fort Lauderdale Court Case is Finally Settled!”It took seven years, but Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs’ federal civil liberties lawsuit against Fort Lauderdale for banning food sharings is finally concluding. After we won our second appeal in August 2021, the City has accepted a settlement that admits they were wrong to enforce the Park Rule against us and will pay us a small amount of damages. They will also have to pay our lawyers a great deal more!

“These results are on top of the victories this lawsuit already accomplished in years’ prior, including the 2018 appeals ruling that ruled that the original sharing ban law was unconstitutional — and creating a strongly worded precedent about sharing food as protected free speech.” See full statement on Facebook.
Available for interviews:

NATHAN PIM, swampzine@gmail.com
Pim is one of the plantiffs with with Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs.

KEITH McHENRY, keith@foodnotbombs.net@keith_mchenry

McHenry is co-founder of the global Food Not Bombs movement. He is currently in Houston, where the local chapter is defying the city government, risking arrest. See recent piece in the Houston Chronicle: “Refusing to comply with city ordinance, Food Not Bombs Houston continues to feed the hungry.”

Said McHenry: “Sharing free food with the hungry is an unreguated gift of love. …. Governments have no business interfering with anyone who is sharing food with the hungry. We aren’t stopping those governments from meeting the needs of the people in their community.”

Also see: “Cities Undermine the Holiday Spirit with Unconstitutional Bans on Sharing Food with the Homeless” in Reason.

McHenry noted: “The Point-in-Time count will be at the end of January and even though a huge undercount, it should reflect the increased need in people seeking food.

“While most indoor soup kitchens shut down during the pandemic, Food Not Bombs continured to share with the unhoused.”

Assange: Exposed War Crimes, Imprisoned for 1000 Days; Blair: Committed War Crimes, was Just Knighted

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JOHN PILGER, jpilger2003@yahoo.co.uk@johnpilger

Pilger is a renowned journalist and film-maker whose books and documentaries have won numerous awards including an Emmy and a British Academy Award.

He said Wednesday: “Julian Assange has now spent 1000 days in Belmarsh prison. His crime is truth and authentic, accurate, vital journalism. Washington’s attempt to extradite him would be farcical if it wasn’t so threatening for all journalists who do their job and call governments to account. Julian languishes in Belmarsh prison in London only because of the ruthlessness of great power and its determination to conceal its crimes from the public.”

Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is slated to be extradited to the U.S. for exposing documentation of U.S. government killings. Among the exposes that Assange is being prosecuted for is exposing video of the “Collateral Murder” killings by U.S. soldiers from a helicopter gunship mowing down Reuters staffers in Iraq. Reuters had requested the video and other evidence in 2007, when the attack occurred, but the U.S. government kept it secret until WikiLeaks made it public in 2010. Read John Pilger’s latest piece: “The judicial kidnapping of Julian Assange.”

Pilger also spoke out against former British Prime Minister Tony Blair being knighted: “Stand in solidarity with the men, women and children whose lives were lost or ruined in the criminal invasion of Iraq. Below is the petition calling for Blair’s knighthood to be rescinded. More than half a million have signed it. Make it millions.”

Santa Cruz Threatens to Evict Food Not Bombs

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In the latest of a series of restrictions on people giving out free meals, the city government of Santa Cruz is targeting the group Food Not Bombs for eviction on Tuesday

KEITH McHENRY, keith@foodnotbombs.net@keith_mchenry

McHenry is co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement. He has a regular segment on the radio program “Flashpoints” on KPFA, “Foodfight: the Life and Death Battle Against Hunger and Houslessness,” and will be the first featured guest on Monday afternoon.   He just wrote the post: “Santa Cruz Threatens to Evict Food Not Bombs“: “It is 3:30 pm on Friday, January 7, 2022, when I finally get a call from Larry Imwalle, the Santa Cruz City Homelessness Response Manager. He never returned my calls about moving people to higher ground before the Benchlands flood or after my desperate efforts to get two families into housing. He is paid $150,000 a year to ‘manage the homeless.’

“I was buying two more sets of Industrial Steel Shelving at Home Depot to place in our new shipping container. We are rushing to remove our back stock of rice, lentils and other dry goods from India Joze’s Restaurant before he closes down to make way for a luxury apartment complex to be built in its place.”

McHenry was told that “the city will require that Food Not Bombs vacate Lot 27 by Tuesday, January 11, 2022 at 2:00 PM.”

McHenry writes: “Larry tells me, as can be read in his email, that, ‘The Pure Water Soquel Construction Project will be working in this area and requires use of Lot 27 and the surrounding area to accomplish the project and stage equipment.’ I suggested he have the project manager call me so we can make this work and pointed out that there is another parking lot next to Wheelworks that is always vacant.

“As soon as Larry and I hang up I start getting calls from our volunteers at Lot 27. The police have arrived and are handing out papers saying we have to leave by Tuesday. This is not the first late Friday afternoon eviction from Lot 27 during our 664 days of sharing meals with the community during the pandemic. …”

Guantánamo Prison: 20 Years, Biden “Must Uphold His Commitment” to Close it

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The group Witness Against Torture is holding numerous events and protests marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay prison. Contact for the group: Helen Schietinger, h.schietinger@verizon.net.

Amnesty International recently released a statement: “This is an anniversary that should never have been reached. Since the Bush administration, there has been agreement among national security experts and across the political spectrum that the Guantánamo prison — a notorious site of torture and unjustifiable indefinite detention — should be closed.

“President Biden must uphold his commitment to close Guantánamo once and for all.” Contact: Gabby Arias, media@aiusa.org.

Organizations Call for Elimination of “Launch on Warning” Land-Based Nuclear Missiles

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More than 60 national and regional organizations on Wednesday issued a joint statement calling for the elimination of the 400 land-based nuclear missiles now armed and on hair-trigger alert in the United States.

The statement, titled “A Call to Eliminate ICBMs,” warns that “intercontinental ballistic missiles are uniquely dangerous, greatly increasing the chances that a false alarm or miscalculation will result in nuclear war.”

Citing the conclusion reached by former Defense Secretary William Perry that ICBMs “could even trigger an accidental nuclear war,” the organizations urged the U.S. government to “shut down the 400 ICBMs now in underground silos that are scattered across five states — Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.”

“Rather than being any kind of deterrent, ICBMs are the opposite — a foreseeable catalyst for nuclear attack,” the statement reads.

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction,” Martin Luther King Jr. said as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The statement ends: “Nearly 60 years later, the United States must eliminate its ICBMs to reverse that downward spiral.”

Among the groups signing the statement are Physicians for Social Responsibility, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and Veterans For Peace. See the full statement and list of signers.

Martin Luther King’s Call for a “Radical Revolution of Values”

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In a major speech at Riverside Church in New York, given exactly a year before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed: “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

King came out against the war in Vietnam, calling military spending a “demonic destructive suction tube” and said: “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. … True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. …

“A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” See text and audio.

JARED A. BALL, imixwhatilike@gmail.com, @IMIXWHATILIKE
Ball is a professor of communication and Africana studies at Morgan State University and author of The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power. Ball is also host of the podcast “iMiXWHATiLiKE!” and co-founder of Black Power Media. His decades of journalism, media, writing, and political work can be found at imixwhatilike.org.
 
See Ball’s video: “Dr. MLK Jr.: Struggling Not To Lose Him” and more recently, see “Dr. King Did Not Support ‘#BuyBlack.'”

Maya Angelou, the Quarter and Real Change

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KALI HOLLOWAY, kali.mir@ind.media, @kalihollowayftw
Holloway is a monthly columnist for both The Nation and The Daily Beast. She is the former director of the Make it Right Project, a national initiative dedicated to taking down Confederate monuments and telling the truth about history. She is also lead vocalist for the band Easy Lover and is currently working on her first book, The Secret Racist History of Everything.

She said today: “Maya Angelou was a brilliant poet, a visionary writer, and an icon to those of us gifted with her words; for all of those reasons, her legacy and impact should be celebrated and commemorated. But I suspect that Dr. Angelou, an outspoken activist for the liberation of black folks, would question her placement on the same coin as a man who stole even the teeth of those he enslaved. I believe she would recognize the irony of America’s willingness to put a black woman on its money, even as it refuses to address the tenfold wealth gap between black and white families, or to provide recompense for centuries of state-backed anti-black racism. To be clear, representation matters, and Dr. Angelou represents the best of this country. But to genuinely reckon with anti-black racism and misogynoir, we need to not only change our narratives, monuments and currency, but to do so as part of a larger effort to create substantive social justice change.”

Newsom Fact-Checked on Rejection of Sirhan Parole on RFK Assassination

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Late last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom denied parole for Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of the killing of Robert F. Kennedy.

A parole board had recommended Sirhan’s discharge.

In his statement rejecting the release, Newsom claimed: “Mr. Sirhan shot Senator Kennedy in front of news cameras, which subjected the Kennedy family and American public to a ubiquitous video loop of Senator Kennedy’s violent death and his wife’s anguish at his side.”

LISA PEASE, lpease2@roadrunner.com, @lisapease
Pease is author of A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., which was published in 2018.

She contends there are numerous falsehoods in Newsom’s statement. For example, contrary to Newsom’s claim above, Pease states: “The cameras were NOT on during the shooting — only after.”

She has argued that “Sirhan had been framed. Sirhan was in front of RFK, who was shot from behind.” See a talk by Pease televised by C-SPAN. The Washington Post covered some of Pease’s revelations: “CIA may have used contractor who inspired ‘Mission: Impossible’ to kill RFK, new book alleges.”

See recent IPA news release: “Did Sirhan Sirhan Kill Robert Kennedy?” which featured three people who have investigated the assassination of Robert Kennedy including Pease and Paul Schrade. A close associate of RFK’s, Schrade was with him the night he was assassinated and was also shot. Now in his 90s, he has long charged the Los Angeles police effectively framed Sirhan, who Schrade also states did not kill Kennedy.

A Campaign Against COVID Public-Health Measures

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An investigative report is shedding light on “a nearly two-year campaign by right-wing and big business interests to force a return to normalcy to boost corporate profits amid a pandemic that is now surging once again thanks to Omicron.”

The report — “How the Koch Network Hijacked the War on COVID” — tells “the story of how that corporate-bankrolled campaign originally started, and how it has continued to supplant public health experts and hijack the governmental response to the pandemic.”

The authors of the report, Walker Bragman and Alex Kotch, point out that “when COVID began its spread across the United States in early March 2020, states responded by locking down to varying extents. All 24 Democratic governors and 19 of the 26 Republican governors issued weeks-long stay-at-home orders and restrictions on non-essential businesses. Lockdown measures drove down cases in the U.S. and likely saved millions of lives globally.”

However, “the decline of in-person shopping and work, combined with factory shutdowns in places like China, disrupted the economy. A 2020 report from the corporate consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found the hardest-hit industries would take years to recover.” And, “One sector in particular that took a big hit was the fossil fuel industry. Oil demand fell sharply in 2020, placing the global economy on uncertain footing.

“Before long, business-aligned groups — particularly those connected to fossil fuels — began targeting the public health measures threatening their bottom lines. Chief among them were groups tied to billionaire Charles Koch, owner of Koch Industries, the largest privately held fossil fuel company in the world.

“The war on public health measures began on March 20, 2020, when Americans For Prosperity, the right-wing nonprofit founded by Charles and David Koch, issued a press release calling on states to remain open…. To fight its war, the Koch network also relied on the astroturf roadmap behind the anti-government Tea Party movement, using its dark money apparatus to coordinate anti-lockdown protests.

“Participants for a number of anti-lockdown rallies were recruited by FreedomWorks, a dark money group tied to Charles Koch instrumental in organizing Tea Party protests in 2009. Several of the 2020 rallies were also promoted by the Convention of States Action, a group founded by an organization with ties to the Koch network and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer that wants to rewrite the U.S. Constitution.”

The report was produced by a partnership of the Center for Media and Democracy and The Daily Poster. The authors of the report are:

WALKER BRAGMAN, walkerbragman@gmail.com, @walkerbragman

   Bragman is a reporter for The Daily Poster and co-founder of OptOut Media Foundation, a nonprofit charity that promotes independent media and produces the OptOut news app.

ALEX KOTCH, alex@prwatch.org, @alexkotch

     Kotch is senior investigative reporter at the Center for Media and Democracy. He was previously a staff writer for SludgeTYT InvestigatesInternational Business Times and Facing South. His work has been published by dozens of outlets including The NationThe American Prospect, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, and Vice. He is co-founder and executive director of the OptOut Media Foundation.

Post Office Offering COVID Tests

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The Postal Service just announced that it is making free at-home COVID tests available.

LISA GRAVES, via Evan Vorpahl, evan@truenorthresearch.org, @itstruenorth
Graves is the executive director of the watchdog group True North Research and leads the BOLD ReThink project. She wrote the report “The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service.”

She said today: “The Biden administration’s launch of free, at-home COVID-19 tests is a welcome advance with the surge in infections, and deploying the U.S. Postal Service to deliver them is an excellent example of how this essential institution can provide needed public services.” She cautioned about the “Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy” and “his track record and his ongoing efforts to try to privatize postal operations one contract at a time.”

Said Graves: “The Postal Service is one of the largest workforces in the U.S. and with forward-thinking leadership it can play a significant role in providing services and assistance so many Americans need, like COVID-19 tests to help Americans protect their health and postal banking to give people a real, low-cost option for needed financial services. Unfortunately, it seems that DeJoy’s public banking pilot program was designed to fail.”

Graves highlighted how a public institution like a vibrant Post Office would stand in contrast to how companies have conducted themselves, pointing to the example of Abbott labs destroying Covid tests: “Abbott’s shameful and greedy conduct in destroying test components demonstrates yet again why the public cannot depend on such for-profit corporations to prioritize the public health over the company’s quests for higher and higher profits.

“Current law is not adequate to prevent such selfish and destructive conduct by corporations like Abbott, whose tests were touted by politicians and the public, until Abbott’s executives decided that they were not profitable enough to retain even as the pandemic continued to spread in the U.S. and abroad — even though Abbott made enormous profits since the pandemic began, unlike many industries and many individuals adversely affected by the pandemic.”

Graves is a former deputy assistant attorney general in the office of legal policy at the U.S. Department of Justice and former chief counsel for nominations for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Insane Reality”: As Wealthy Meet at Davos, Taxing them Could Provide for Humanity

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As the World Economic Forum meets in Davos, Switzerland, a network of nonprofits has released a report “Taxing Extreme Wealth” about global mega wealth and the revenues that could be raised from taxing the rich.

Among the findings:

* There are 2,660 billionaires with a total combined wealth of $13.76 trillion.

* An annual wealth tax applied to the world’s richest would raise U.S. $2.52 trillion a year (with a graduated rate structure: 2 percent tax on wealth over $5 million; 3 percent on wealth over $50 million; 5 percent on wealth over $1 billion).

The groups find that such a modest annual tax on the world’s richest would “be enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty” as well as “deliver universal health care and social protection for all the citizens of low and lower middle-income countries (3.6 billion people).”

The groups releasing the report include the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam, and Patriotic Millionaires.

“The insane reality is that whilst billions face a daily struggle to survive during this pandemic, billionaire wealth is spiraling out of control. This cannot be right,” said Jenny Ricks, Global Convenor of the Fight Inequality Alliance. “For years Davos has shown us the elites cannot and will not end the virus of inequality they have helped to create. We now have the rare opportunity to create the economy and society we want but this requires deep system change rather than a rehash of the status quo.”

“Wealth inequality has been supercharged by the pandemic, creating an unprecedented global concentration of wealth and power,” said Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the report.

“There is no defending a system that endlessly inflates the wealth of the world’s richest people while condemning billions to easily preventable poverty. We need deep, systemic change, and that starts with taxing rich people like me,” said Morris Pearl of the Patriotic Millionaires.

The five richest people in the United States, as of November 30, 2021, are:

1. Elon Musk, $294.2 billion
2. Jeff Bezos, $202.6 billion
3. Bill Gates, $137.4 billion
4. Larry Ellison, $125.7 billion
5. Larry Page, $122.8 billion

How NATO Inflames Relations with Russia

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Newsweek reports Monday morning: “NATO Puts Forces on Standby, Deploys Ships and Fighter Jets Near Russia.”

DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs@email.arizona.edu
Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona and has written extensively on NATO.

He said today: “Coming so soon after their 20-year war in Afghanistan, U.S. officials should not be looking for new foreign interventions in the Ukraine — which risks even worse outcomes than the ‘War on Terror’ produced.”

He has argued regarding NATO: “it is worth recalling how much the alliance has weakened world security since the end of the Cold War, by inflaming relations with Russia. It is often forgotten that the cause of the current conflict arose from a 1990 U.S. promise that NATO would never be expanded into the former communist states of Eastern Europe. Not ‘one inch to the East,’ Russian leaders were promised by the U.S. Secretary of State at the time, James Baker. Despite this promise, NATO soon expanded into Eastern Europe, eventually placing the alliance up against Russia’s borders. The present-day U.S.-Russian conflict is the direct result of this expansion.”

Gibbs is author of the book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, published by Vanderbilt University Press.

Roots of Joe Rogan Controversy: “A War on Public Health”

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While podcast commentator Joe Rogan continues to ignite controversy as a source of false claims about the Covid pandemic, the roots of such widespread falsehoods are examined in a recent investigative report — shedding light on “a nearly two-year campaign by right-wing and big business interests to force a return to normalcy to boost corporate profits amid a pandemic that is now surging once again thanks to Omicron.”

Journalist Alex Kotch is co-author of the report — “How the Koch Network Hijacked the War on Covid” — telling “the story of how that corporate-bankrolled campaign originally started, and how it has continued to supplant public health experts and hijack the governmental response to the pandemic.”

Kotch said today: “To trace the origin of Covid-19 disinformation we have to go back to the very beginning of the pandemic in the U.S., when libertarian billionaire-funded interest groups attacked lockdowns and other basic public safety measures to preserve their corporate profits, even as dead bodies piled up in refrigerator trucks in cities such as New York.”

The report says: “The war on public health measures began on March 20, 2020, when Americans For Prosperity, the right-wing nonprofit founded by Charles and David Koch, issued a press release calling on states to remain open…. To fight its war, the Koch network also relied on the astroturf roadmap behind the anti-government Tea Party movement, using its dark money apparatus to coordinate anti-lockdown protests.”

The report was produced by a partnership of the Center for Media and Democracy and The Daily Poster.

ALEX KOTCH, alex@prwatch.org, @alexkotch

Kotch is senior investigative reporter at the Center for Media and Democracy. He was previously a staff writer for Sludge, TYT Investigates, International Business Times and Facing South. His work has been published by dozens of outlets including The Nation, The American Prospect, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, and Vice. He is co-founder and executive director of the OptOut Media Foundation.

100 U.S. Organizations Release Statement Urging Biden “to End the U.S. Role in Escalating” the Ukraine Crisis

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More than 100 national and regional U.S. organizations released a joint statement Tuesday urging President Biden “to end the U.S. role in escalating the extremely dangerous tensions with Russia over Ukraine.” The groups said “it is gravely irresponsible for the president to participate in brinkmanship between two nations that possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.”

The statement warned that the current crisis “could easily spiral out of control to the point of pushing the world to the precipice of nuclear war.”

Release of the statement came with an announcement of a virtual news conference set for Wednesday morning – with speakers including a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jack F. Matlock Jr. The Nation editorial director Katrina vanden Heuvel, who is president of the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord; and Martin Fleck, representing Physicians for Social Responsibility. Journalists can sign up to attend the Noon EST Feb. 2 news conference via Zoom by clicking here – https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_pIoKDszBQ8Ws8A8TuDgKbA – and will then receive a confirmation email with an access link.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, kat@thenation.com, @KatrinaNation

Vanden Heuvel is also a columnist for the Washington Post. She just wrote the piece “The exit from the Ukraine crisis that’s hiding in plain sight.”

Statement from U.S. Organizations on the Ukraine Crisis

As organizations representing millions of people in the United States, we call upon President Biden to end the U.S. role in escalating the extremely dangerous tensions with Russia over Ukraine. It is gravely irresponsible for the president to participate in brinkmanship between two nations that possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

For the United States and Russia, the only sane course of action now is a commitment to genuine diplomacy with serious negotiations, not military escalation – which could easily spiral out of control to the point of pushing the world to the precipice of nuclear war.

While both sides are to blame for causing this crisis, its roots are entangled in the failure of the U.S. government to live up to its promise made in 1990 by then-Secretary of State James Baker that NATO would expand not “one inch to the East.” Since 1999, NATO has expanded to include numerous countries, including some that border Russia. Rather than dismissing out of hand the Russian government’s current insistence on a written guarantee that Ukraine will not become part of NATO, the U.S. government should agree to a long-term moratorium on any NATO expansion.

 

Signing organizations

Physicians for Social Responsibility

RootsAction.org

CODEPINK

Just Foreign Policy

Peace Action

Veterans For Peace

Our Revolution

MADRE

Progressive Democrats of America

American Committee for US-Russia Accord

Pax Christi USA

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Center for Citizen Initiatives

Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security

Alaska Peace Center

Arise for Social Justice

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests

Backbone Campaign

Baltimore Nonviolence Center

Baltimore Peace Action

BDSA Internationalism Committee

Benedictines for Peace

Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists

Beyond Nuclear

Campaign Nonviolence

Casa Baltimore Limay

Chapter 9 Veterans For Peace, Smedley Butler Brigade

Chicago Area Peace Action

Cleveland Peace Action

Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Community Peacemaker Teams

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Continuing the Peace Dialogue

Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Washington DC

Eisenhower Media Project

End the Wars Coalition, Milwaukee

Environmentalists Against War

Extinction Rebellion PDX

First Unitarian Society – Madison Justice Ministries

Food Not Bombs

Foreign Policy In Focus

Frack Free Four Corners

Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution

Global Exchange

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

Grassroots International

Hawaii Peace and Justice

Historians for Peace and Democracy

Interfaith Peace Working Group

International Tribunal of Conscience

Just World Educational

Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War

Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Maryland Peace Action

Massachusetts Peace Action

Metta Center for Nonviolence

Monroe County Democrats

MPower Change Fund

Muslim Delegates and Allies

National Lawyers Guild (NLG) International

New Hampshire Veterans for Peace

New Jersey State Industrial Union Council

North Texas Peace Advocates

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Other98

Pace e Bene

Parallax Perspectives

Partners for Peace Fort Collins

Peace Action of San Mateo County

Peace Action WI

Peace Education Center

PeaceWorkers

People for Bernie Sanders

Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter, Baltimore, Veterans For Peace

Physicians for Social Responsibility, AZ Chapter

Prevent Nuclear War/ Maryland

Progressive Democrats of America, Tucson

Proposition One Campaign for a Nuclear Free Future

Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center

Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin

San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility

San Jose Peace and Justice Center

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Justice Team

SolidarityINFOService

Traprock Center for Peace & Justice

United for Peace and Justice

United Nations Association, Milwaukee

Veterans For Peace, Russia Working Group

Veterans for Peace, Chapter 102

Veterans For Peace Chapter 111, Bellingham, WA

Veterans For Peace Chapter 113-Hawai’i

Veterans For Peace Linus Pauling Chapter 132

Veterans For Peace – NYC Chapter 34

Veterans For Peace – Santa Fe Chapter

Veterans Peace Team

Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility

Western States Legal Foundation

Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice

Women Cross DMZ

Women Against Military Madness

Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom US

Women Transforming Our Nuclear Legacy

World BEYOND War

350 Milwaukee

 

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:

February 1, 2022

Institute for Public Accuracy
980 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045
accuracy.org * ipa@accuracy.org
@accuracy * ipaccuracy

Ukraine, Cyberattacks and Undermining Democratic Processes

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There are widespread reports of cyber attacks in Ukraine.

JOHN QUIGLEY, quigley.2@osu.edu
Professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University, Quigley’s books include The Ruses for War: American Interventionism Since World War II.

Quigley dealt with the Crimea issue following the breakup of the USSR, at the request of the U.S. Department of State, which was working through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on the subject. He has written about it for the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law.

Last June, Quigley was featured on an accuracy.org news release warning: “NATO Trying Use Cyber Attacks to Trigger Article 5.”

At that time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had told the Atlantic Council (which is funded by various NATO governments): “We have decided that a cyber attack can trigger Article 5. … It doesn’t matter if an attack is kinetic or cyber, we will assess as allies when it meets the threshold. … and it sends a message that we are cyber allies.”

Quigley warned then: “There are obviously concerns about cyber attacks, they can be very damaging, for example the cyber attacks against Iran by the U.S. and Israel.

“But Article 5 of the NATO Treaty references Article 51 of the UN Charter which provides for collective self defense in the event of ‘armed attack.’

“And the notion of ‘self defense’ is a very slippery slope and has been misused as an illegal threat or for outright war.

“So the notion of the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Biden administration seeking to expand NATO’s capacity is very dangerous and could be used to try to undermine the democratic processes within each country regarding war-making decision making.

“NATO was set up to counter the Soviet Union from supposedly invading Western Europe. So, there’s really no legitimate reason for NATO to exist as an organization. Instead, it has expanded. The last time Article 5 was used was for the invasion of Afghanistan and look where that has gotten us.”

How Biden Could End the Ukraine Crisis

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DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs@email.arizona.edu
Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona and has written extensively on NATO. He recently wrote the piece “Claims Over Broken Promises About NATO Simmer at the Heart of the Ukraine Crisis.”

He said today: “In its efforts to expand NATO into Ukraine, the Biden administration is recklessly inflaming the international crisis, endangering global security. It is often forgotten that in 1990, the U.S. promised that NATO would not expand into the former communist states of Eastern Europe; ‘not one inch Eastward,’ Soviet leaders were assured by the U.S. Secretary of State at the time. Despite this promise, NATO soon expanded into Eastern Europe, eventually placing the alliance up against Russia’s borders. To resolve the current crisis, the Biden administration should offer a written guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO. To do this would satisfy the key Russian demand, consistent with the 1990 U.S. commitment.”

Gibbs is author of the book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, published by Vanderbilt University Press.

Can OSCE Help Defuse Ukraine Crisis?

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MICHAEL BEER, michael@nonviolenceinternational.net, @nvintl
Beer is director of Nonviolence International and author of the book Civil Resistance Tactics in the 21st Century

Last week, the group issued a statement: “A Chance for Peace: OSCE Must Strengthen the Ukraine Peace Monitoring Mission. The U.S. must reverse its withdrawal of OSCE peace observers.”

Beer said today: “We reiterate our call for bolstering the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Peace Monitoring Mission along the contact line between the Donbas and Ukrainian forces. The escalation in these territories means that peace monitoring to monitor the conflict is needed more than ever.”

The group stated last week: “It is critically important to maintain the personnel who are currently involved in monitoring the situation along the line of contact and to take every possible measure to expand their capacity.”

Ukraine and the “Borderline Euphoria” of Military Lobbyists

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ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn@gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Cockburn is author of the new book The Spoils of War: Power, Profit and the American War Machine.

He said today: “Two days after Putin took over Crimea in 2014, military lobbyists in Washington met for breakfast in a state, according to one attendee, of ‘borderline euphoria.’ As we head to a $800 billion Pentagon budget, we can see that their hopes and dreams have been entirely justified.”

The Spoils of War reports on how “Washington expanded NATO to satisfy an arms manufacturer’s urgent financial requirements; the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet deployments were for years dictated by a corrupt contractor who bribed high-ranking officers with cash and prostitutes; senior Marine commanders agreed to a troop surge in Afghanistan in 2017 for budgetary reasons.”

Cockburn recently wrote the piece “Can Joe Biden channel John F. Kennedy over Ukraine?” for The Spectator. His past pieces include “How the U.S. military got rich from Afghanistan.”

Cockburn is Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine. His past books include Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins.

Ukraine Crisis: Overlooked Facts

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KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, kat@thenation.com@KatrinaNation
Publisher and editorial director of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel is president of the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord. She just wrote the piece “Putin’s Invasion.” While repeatedly condemning Putin’s actions, she writes: “NATO expansion provided the context for this crisis — a fact often ignored by our media. … Putin’s demand — essentially that the status quo, i.e. Ukraine remain outside of NATO — be codified was scorned as violating NATO’s ‘principle’ of admitting anyone it wanted.”

“One immediate result was to encourage parallel irresponsibility in Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky promised voters, when he ran for and won Ukraine’s presidency in 2019, that he would pursue a path to peace and end the war in the Donbas. Upon taking office, however, his government refused to implement the essential provisions of the 2015 Minsk Protocols — signed by Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany, and the EU — that essentially would have guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity in exchange for Ukrainian neutrality.

“Now, sadly, Russia’s illegal actions will embolden the hawks and armament mongers on all sides. Already armchair strategists are calling for doubling the US military budget, for grasping the ‘strategic opportunity’ to bleed Putin in Ukraine while pushing the Europeans to build up their military forces. …

“What is needed is not a rush to arms and to hawkish bluster, but a return to intense negotiations — at the UN, at the OSCE, and among the signatories to the Minsk Protocols. It is time to recognize that there remain options that, if pursued in good faith, could bring the current crisis to a peaceful conclusion.”

The Nation also recently published the piece “Neo-Nazis and the Far Right Are On the March in Ukraine” by Lev Golinkin.

News Headlines Downplaying Severity of Omicron Variant

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Since the Omicron variant began to dominate cases in the United States in late 2021, mainstream media have routinely characterized it as “mild” compared with the Delta variant’s severity. But as Katherine J. Wu pointed out in The Atlantic last month, “COVID-19 doesn’t have to be medically severe to take a toll.” Experts say that Omicron can worsen chronic health issues and even asymptomatic cases can lead to long-COVID.

JUSTIN FELDMAN, jfeldman@hsph.harvard.edu, @jfeldman_epi

Feldman is a Health and Human Rights Fellow at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. 

Feldman wrote that when using a news database in mid-January, he found more than 700 U.S. news article headlines emphasizing that Omicron is “mild.”

Today, he said: “When Omicron first hit the U.S., pundits and government officials painted a misleading picture that downplayed the severe public health consequences of the variant. The truth is that even while people infected with Omicron are less likely to die compared to Delta, it is hardly mild. Omicron’s properties of extremely high transmissibility and immune evasion led to well over 100,000 deaths between Biden’s Dec. 21, 2021 White House speech and today. The narrative of ‘mildness’ provided cover for government to weaken the few remaining public health protections, such as reducing isolation time for infected workers from 10 days to 5. CDC’s data also shows that Black and Indigenous people were hospitalized at far higher rates than white people during this period.”

End Ukraine War, and Perpetual Wars: Call for a Transnational Citizens’ Movement

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KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, kat@thenation.com@KatrinaNation

Publisher and editorial director of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel just wrote the piece “We must end the war on Ukraine — and put an end to perpetual wars” for the Washington Post.
She writes: “Commentators argue that Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has overturned the post-war world order. But the reality is perhaps more dangerous than that. …

“Putin has simply (and brutally) reasserted Russia’s role. The old order — with its Cold War attitudes, militaries, alliances and enmities — is reclaiming center stage.

“NATO … now claims new purpose and energy. Hawks in Russia and the United States alike are emboldened. Weapons-makers are drawing up plans to profit in the coming arms buildup, and ideologues and demagogues are dusting off familiar rhetoric. China, clearly helping Russia mitigate its sanctions, now weighs heavily in the balance.

“As this old reality settles back in, we will pay a continuing price for ignoring George F. Kennan, the grand strategist of containment who warned that expanding NATO to Russia’s borders after the collapse of the Soviet Union was bound to lead to ‘the beginning of a new Cold War’ — and all its folly.

“So what can stand in the way of this wasteful Cold War revival? In Ukraine, the hope is that the global outrage will lead Russia to negotiate a cease-fire. The Minsk Accords, terms hammered out in 2015 but never implemented, could offer the outlines of a settlement. They essentially guarantee Ukraine independence in exchange for neutrality.

“What’s needed above all is a courageous and transnational citizens’ movement demanding not simply the end of the war on Ukraine but also an end to perpetual wars. We need political leaders who will speak out about our real security needs and resist the reflex to fall into old patterns that distract from the threats we can no longer afford to ignore.”

Toxic Military “Burn Pits” Across the U.S. and in Iraq: Why Are They Allowed?

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At the State of the Union Address Tuesday night, President Joe Biden addressed toxic “burn pits” and the possibility that his son, Beau Biden’s fatal brain cancer could have been caused by one in Iraq. These are used to dispose of toxic material by burning it.

LAURA OLAH, info@cswab.org, @CSWAB
Olah is executive director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger and national coordinator for the Cease Fire Campaign. She has written extensively about burn pits, especially at military bases inside the U.S. In “Hundreds Call on EPA to Stop Open Air Burning of PFAS and other Toxic Chemicals,” she wrote: “Nationwide, there are approximately 60 active private and public sector facilities that routinely conduct OB/OD [open burn/open demolition] of hazardous waste. All are currently permitted by the EPA or allowed by the agency to operate under ‘interim status’ without any permit at all.

“The munitions industry is the only industry in the United States that is still being permitted to burn hazardous waste to the open air — a practice that was formally banned by Congress in the 1980’s. The EPA has permitted the practice to continue for decades, despite the long-standing federal mandate.

“Moreover, there are literally hundreds of former OB/OD sites across the U.S. that now require cleanup. In addition to widespread environmental damage, community members, base workers and service members have endured chronic exposure to toxic metals, dioxins, perchlorates, explosives, solvents, depleted uranium and PFAS.” See list of active OB/OD hazardous sites in the U.S. and territories [PDF] and list of Pentagon fire/crash training area sites [PDF].

KALI RUBAII, [currently in Fallujah, Iraq], kali.rubaii@gmail.com, @kalirubaii
Rubaii is an assistant professor at Purdue University and wrote the piece “Birth Defects and the Toxic Legacy of War in Iraq” for the Middle East Research and Information Project which states: “U.S. bases in Iraq used burn pits to incinerate everything from computers to tires in large open-air pits that burned day and night for years. They released high levels of dioxin and innumerable other toxins that are known to cause health problems, from birth defects to neurological issues.

“Burn pits are also linked to U.S. veteran illnesses and sit at the root of campaigns for veteran healthcare. For Iraqis living near burn pits, serious consequences for their long-term and intergenerational health continue to emerge. For example, some Iraqi babies born near Tallil Air Base were found to have neurological problems, congenital heart disease, paralyzed or missing limbs and elevated thorium in their bodies. The closer to the base, the higher their levels.”

The group Military Poisons features more information.

What’s Wrong with the CDC’s Decision to Drop Mask Mandate

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The Centers for Disease Control has released new guidelines that enable 70 percent of American adults to forgo wearing masks indoors and social distancing. The New York Times and Washington Post reported that the CDC’s guidelines allow counties to independently calculate risk of the virus to their residents by considering hospitalization and case data rather than the number of cases alone. Unvaccinated people at any risk classification are still encouraged to wear masks. Masking is now only recommended in schools in counties at “high” risk.

This news comes less than three weeks after the agency’s chief, Rochelle Walensky, warned against lifting mask mandates too soon. But now the CDC has pivoted to say that it is shifting focus “to preventing the most severe outcomes and minimizing healthcare strain,” instead of focusing on preventing cases. The CDC was sharply criticized last year when it lifted mask restrictions just before the Delta variant surged across the US. 

Disability advocates have decried the shift. Progressive doctors are also concerned. Andrew Goldstein, a primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine at NYU, said: “While most Americans actually support mask mandates to protect themselves and others, the CDC’s new guidance contorts data and public health reasoning to provide a nonsensical justification for the elite and corporate policy preference of ending masking. This is utterly irresponsible and inappropriate from the leadership of the CDC, who should have led with evidence and a commitment to public health, but instead are supporting a path to even more inequitable, preventable death and suffering.”

ANDREW GOLDSTEIN, MD, andrew.d.goldstein@gmail.com, @AndrewMakeTweet.
Goldstein founded Progressive Doctors and On Call for Democracy. 

BEATRICE ADLER-BOLTON, bea.bolton@gmail.com, @realLandsEnd.
Adler-Bolton is a blind/low vision and chronically ill disability justice advocate. She is the co-host of the Death Panel podcast. 

Adler-Bolton says that the new guidelines and risk levels fail to take the health of vulnerable people into account. “We should be honest,” Adler-Bolton says, that “a lot of what anti-mask sentiment is boiling down to is a rejection of social rights [economic participation, which predicates inclusion] for the medically vulnerable… One-way masking, which puts the burden of pandemic protections on vulnerable individuals alone, is a rolling back of social rights.” The vulnerable are carrying a double burden, both asked to exclude themselves from society and to bear the cost of buying PPE. She added: “As we saw the last time mask mandates were rolled back too soon, variants are hastened by sudden mass shifts in behavior, putting not just the medically vulnerable / kids <5 but the whole population at risk of long term complications of infection.”

Media Coverage of Ukraine: When Selectivity Becomes Propaganda

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HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, hassan@fcnl.org, @HassanElTayyab
El-Tayyab is legislative director for Middle East policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, he said today “U.S. media is blatantly displaying racism by only adequately covering a war between white people. In comparison, we see almost no coverage of wars in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Somalia, Ethiopia, etc. Implication is white lives matter more to them than black/brown lives.”

On Feb. 11, El-Tayyab wrote the piece “Lawmakers take action on Biden’s failed Yemen policy,” noting: “Two House members announced this week they’d be introducing a War Powers Resolution to put an end to America’s role in the Saudi-led conflict.” The Ukraine crisis might delay the introduction, but legislation is expected to proceed.

JEFF COHEN, jcohen@ithaca.edu, @Roots_Action
Cohen is co-founder of RootsAction.org, a retired journalism professor at Ithaca College and author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media. In 1986, he founded the media watch group FAIR.He just wrote the piece “Mainstream media opposes military aggression — unless the U.S. is doing it,” which states: “While covering Russia’s horrific aggression in Ukraine, there is a real focus — as there always should be — on civilian victims of war. Today, the focus on that essential aspect of the Russian invasion is prominent and continuous — from civilian deaths to the trauma felt by civilians as missiles strike nearby.

“Unfortunately, there was virtually no focus on civilian death and agony when it was the U.S. military launching the invasions. After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 on false pretenses — made possible by U.S. mainstream media complicity that I witnessed firsthand — civilian deaths were largely ignored and undercounted through the years.”
Cohen also scrutinizes the highly selective coverage of international law and “imperialism.”

Eoin Higgins in “‘Relatively Civilized, Relatively European’: Media Bias Infects Coverage of Ukraine War” notes Nashwa Khan’s tweet: “Palestinians are called terrorists for throwing rocks during occupation while Ukrainians are celebrated and shown on TV making Molotov cocktails.”

In “Ukraine, Palestine and the propaganda of war,” the Electronic Intifada notes examples of footage of Palestinians that have been misattributed to having happened in Ukraine.

They write: “The whiteness of Ukrainians may make it easier for Western governments to sell to their publics escalation and intervention instead of urgent negotiations to defuse a potentially catastrophic crisis between nuclear superpowers.

“But that is not the whole story. … ‘It’s not about their whiteness, but about Ukraine’s geopolitical significance to American capitalism and the expansion of its empire.’”

Calling Russia’s Attack “Unprovoked” Lets U.S. Off the Hook

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BRYCE GREENE, greenebj@iu.edu, @TheGreeneBJ

Greene just wrote the piece “Calling Russia’s Attack ‘Unprovoked’ Lets U.S. Off the Hook” for FAIR. His past pieces include “What You Should Really Know About Ukraine.” He was also recently on FAIR’s radio program, CounterSpin.
Greene writes: “Many governments and media figures are rightly condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine as an act of aggression and a violation of international law. But in his first speech about the invasion, on February 24, U.S. President Joe Biden also called the invasion ‘unprovoked.'” Many other politicians and media outlets have made similar claims.

Greene notes in his most recent piece how many famed experts warned in the late 1990s against the expansion of NATO.

More recently, Greene reports: “By December 2021, U.S. intelligence agencies were sounding the alarm that Russia was amassing troops at the Ukrainian border and planning to attack. Yet Putin was very clear about a path to deescalation: He called on the West to halt NATO expansion, negotiate Ukrainian neutrality in the East/West rivalry, remove U.S. nuclear weapons from non proliferating countries, and remove missiles, troops and bases near Russia. These are demands the U.S. would surely have made were it in Russia’s position. Unfortunately, the U.S. refused to negotiate on Russia’s core concerns. …

“It’s impossible to say for sure why the Biden administration took an approach that increased the likelihood of war, but one Wall Street Journal piece from last month may offer some insight.

“The Journal (12/22/21) published an op-ed from John Deni, a researcher at the Atlantic Council, a think tank funded by the U.S. and allied governments that serves as NATO’s de facto brain trust. The piece was provocatively headlined ‘The Strategic Case for Risking War in Ukraine.’ Deni’s argument was that the West should refuse to negotiate with Russia, because either potential outcome would be beneficial to U.S. interests.

“If Putin backed down without a deal, it would be a major embarrassment. He would lose face and stature, domestically and on the world stage.

“But Putin going to war would also be good for the U.S., the Journal op-ed argued. Firstly,  it would give NATO more legitimacy by ‘forg[ing] an even stronger anti-Russian consensus across Europe.’ Secondly, a major attack would trigger ‘another round of more debilitating economic sanctions,’ weakening the Russian economy and its ability to compete with the U.S. for global influence. Thirdly, an invasion is ‘likely to spawn a guerrilla war’ that would ‘sap the strength and morale of Russia’s military while undercutting Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity and reducing Russia’s soft power globally.” Greene similarly critiques a piece in the New York Times.

Greene concludes: “Now, as the world once again inches toward the brink of nuclear omnicide, it is more important than ever for Western audiences to understand and challenge their own government’s role in dragging us all to this point.”

If Russia is to Withdraw, There Must be Negotiations

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Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba have agreed to meet on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, in what would be the first potential talks between the two since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24. See report from Al-Jazeera. Before the invasion began, on February 22, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken cancelled a planned meeting with Lavrov after Putin had recognized the breakaway republics.

ANATOL LIEVEN, via Jessica Rosenblum, rosenblum@quincyinst.org, (202) 279-0005
Available for a limited number of interviews, Lieven is senior research fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and just wrote the piece “It’s time to ask: what would a Ukraine-Russia peace deal look like?” published by The Guardian.

He writes: “If the Russians are ever to withdraw, a diplomatic agreement on the terms of withdrawal will be necessary.

“The West should back a peace agreement and Russian withdrawal by offering Russia the lifting of all new sanctions imposed on it. The offer to Ukraine should be a massive reconstruction package that will also help Ukraine to move towards the West economically and politically rather than militarily — just as Finland and Austria were able to do during the Cold War despite their neutral status.

“The demands by the Russian side are that Ukraine should sign a treaty of neutrality; engage in ‘demilitarisation’ and ‘denazification;’ and recognise Russian sovereignty over Crimea, which was seized back by Russia after the Ukrainian Revolution. These demands are a mixed bag of the acceptable, the unacceptable, and the undefined. …

“President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly hinted that a treaty of neutrality may be on offer; and he is right to do so. For two things have been made absolutely clear by this war: that Russia will fight to prevent Ukraine becoming a military ally of the West, and the West will not fight to defend Ukraine. In view of this, to keep open the possibility of an offer of NATO membership that NATO has no intention of ever honouring, and asking Ukrainians to die for this fiction, is worse than hypocritical.

“As to ‘demilitarisation’ and ‘denazification,’ the meaning and terms of these will have to be negotiated. Demilitarisation is obviously unacceptable if it means that Ukraine must unilaterally dissolve its armed forces; but the latest statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has suggested that Russia would accept a ban on missiles based in Ukraine. This could be modelled on a similar guarantee to the U.S. that ended the Cuba Missile Crisis. …

“Ukraine has already lost Crimea, and cannot recover it, as Serbia cannot recover Kosovo, without a bloody and unending war that in this case Ukraine would almost certainly lose. Our principle in all such disputes must be that the fate of the territories concerned must be decided by local democratic referenda under international supervision. This should also apply to the Donbas separatist republics.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
(202) 347-0020

March 8, 2022

Institute for Public Accuracy
980 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045
accuracy.org * ipa@accuracy.org
@accuracy * ipaccuracy

New CDC Data Undermine the Agency’s COVID Isolation Guidelines

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On December 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidelines for people isolating due to COVID-19 infections from 10 days to 5 days. Yet last week, the CDC published its own results showing that among people who begin isolation due to symptoms of COVID-19, 65-80 percent tested positive on days 5-7 of isolation and 40 percent tested positive through day 9––effectively casting doubt on the agency’s isolation guidelines

Epidemiologist, immunologist, and pathologist Michael Mina tweeted on February 25 that the agency’s data show “how POOR their own guidance is surrounding leaving isolation at 5 days w/o negative a rapid test.” He went on to say that the new data match his lab’s data.

MICHAEL MINA, MD, michael.j.mina@gmail.com, @michaelmina_lab. 
    Mina is the Chief Science Officer at eMed, a platform for online healthcare solutions. Previously, he was Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health. 

    Mina: “Breakthrough infections become symptomatic very early after exposure, because of pre-existing partial immunity that leads to fevers and congestion, and this ultimately causes the ‘isolation clock’ to start earlier than in the pre-Omicron era. This means that, instead of symptoms starting when virus load is at peak, today, people are at their peak virus loads at 5 days since symptom onset, just as they are exiting isolation. In general, individuals in isolation who are planning to leave isolation at 5 days since symptom onset, per CDC recommendations, have perhaps the single greatest risk for spreading the virus compared to any other known group of people.

    “The CDC recommendations do not require a test to exit isolation and in so doing pose a serious risk to public health. By taking a loose stance on whether people should or should not test, the CDC recommendations confuse most Americans and serve to create a less safe workplace than a stance that strongly recommends testing before exiting isolation early.

    “The CDC has not done a great job at using up to date data for their recommendations, often falling on published data that is usually months out of date. The CDC should recognize this and update their guidance to strongly recommend or require a rapid antigen test before early exit of isolation.”

Why the Pandemic Is Not Over and What We Need to Do About It 

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Last week, researcher Dr. Christina Pagel tweeted about why the pandemic is not over yet. Pagel contends that the Omicron variant does not actually signal viral endemicity, a phase where transmission should look more stable and predictable

CHRISTINA PAGEL, MD, c.pagel@ucl.ac.uk, @chrischirp 
    Pagel is a professor of Operational Research and Director of University College London’s Clinical Operational Research Unit. 

Pagel asserts that new variants will emerge and will not necessarily, or even likely, be milder than Omicron. This is because none of the main variants we have seen so far evolved from one another; instead, they have all been part of their own distinct lineages. Omicron’s mildness (much debated in the first place) may have been “pure chance.” Contrary to some publicized assumptions, there is “no steady progression to mildness.” In fact, because most COVID transmission happens “while people have no or few symptoms… there is no particular reason for severity to play a role in evolutionary selection.” Further, because vaccines are less protective against variants that are further from the wild type, vaccines formulated for current strains of the virus are likely to be less effective against new strains. 

Pagel says: “Omicron is just the latest variant to sweep the world. Given the near inevitability of a new wave, whether it’s in three months or a year, we need to prepare so that we can reduce its impact. This could involve improving indoor ventilation, having plans to increase testing and contact tracing, introducing mask mandates in a new wave, strengthening health services, improving sick pay and encouraging vaccination.”

These recommendations have been echoed by some U.S.-based doctors, like Stanford infectious disease physician Abraar Karan, who says that the COVID-19 dialogue in the United States is overly focused on the lifting of public health restrictions.

Dr. Karan says the questions he cares about right now are: “What are we doing for preparedness? For health equity? How is indoor air and ventilation going to be improved in schools, businesses, and public places? What’s the timeline? Cost? Who is paying? What’s the accountability mechanism if this doesn’t happen? When will N95 mask supply be increased and to what extent? How will it be distributed? What were previous bottlenecks and how have they been addressed? When will more comfortable options be added? Will poorer communities have more access and supply? What about the terrible comms? What’s the plan for future vaccines? How are we addressing distribution shortcomings? What about ongoing vaccine hesitancy or resistance––what efforts are in place to address this? And what about further closing vaccine inequities globally––what are we doing about this?”

* Threats of a No-Fly Zone * $782 Billion for Pentagon

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WILLIAM HARTUNG, whartung@internationalpolicy.org
Hartung is senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His work focuses on the arms industry and the U.S. military budget. He recently wrote the piece “Biden is right to rule out a ‘no-fly zone’ in Ukraine“: “From Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to former NATO Commander Philip Breedlove, there are growing calls for the Biden administration to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine as a way to protect civilians there and destroy the Russian air offensive that has largely grounded the Ukrainian air force and is doing so much damage to the Ukrainian army. …

“Implementing a no-fly zone of any sort, whether for all of Ukraine or  ‘just’ to protect humanitarian corridors and Ukrainian defensive systems, would mean that the U.S. Air Force would essentially become the Ukrainian air force, fighting alongside Ukrainian ground forces against Russia. … Shooting down Russian planes and bombing Russian anti-aircraft sites would greatly increase the risks of escalation, up to and including a nuclear confrontation.” Hartung also recently wrote the piece “Support Ukraine, But Don’t Implement a No-Fly Zone” published by Forbes.

Roll Call reported Wednesday: “The fiscal 2022 appropriations compromise that lawmakers unveiled early Wednesday would spend generously on the Pentagon and its contractors, marking a big win for GOP defense hawks over progressive Democrats.”

Roll Call quotes Hartung: “Much of this money is wasted on dysfunctional weapons systems, outright waste, and an overly ambitious ‘cover-the-globe’ military strategy that fails to set priorities about the greatest security risks facing the United States and its allies.” The report continues: “The $782.5 billion figure was some $42 billion above fiscal 2021 spending, or nearly 6 percent. It also topped President Joe Biden’s request by about $30 billion, and was some $4 billion more than senators had authorized for such programs, most of which was in the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.”

Hartung recently wrote the brief “Pathways to Pentagon Spending Reductions: Removing the Obstacles.”

End of Federal State of Emergency Could Mean Catastrophic Medicaid Results

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Last month, Politico, Bloomberg, and other outlets amplified a report from the Urban Institute––“What Will Happen to Unprecedented High Medicaid Enrollment after the Public Health Emergency?”––which found that 15 million people, including 6 million children, could potentially lose health insurance when the federal public health state of emergency (PHE) ends. On March 10, journalist Libby Watson called further attention to the issue in the Daily Poster article “The Coming Medicaid Purge.”

States are required to keep people enrolled in Medicaid throughout the PHE as a condition of receiving a temporary increase in the federal share of Medicaid costs. Enrollment surged nearly 20 percent during the pandemic, to an all-time high.

The PHE has already been extended several times, and is currently set to expire on April 15 of this year. Watson notes that “the PHE is likely to continue until July or later, but could end as soon as April. That means that even though the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has given states up to 14 months to resume redeterminations, states are likely already preparing to slash their Medicaid rolls enough to offset the coming loss of federal funding.” Watson reports that a right-wing campaign is pushing an end to the PHE and calling on states to begin disenrolling people immediately, and that the transition period may serve as a “gold rush” for private contractors and consulting firms. 

LIBBY WATSON, sicknotenewsletter@gmail.com, @libbycwatson [email and text preferred]
    Watson is a journalist and the author of Sick Note, a newsletter about American healthcare. 

When the PHE does end, nearly all 80 million enrolled in Medicaid will undergo eligibility redetermination. The authors of a Commonwealth Fund article from September 2021 on coverage loss write that redetermination will trigger “a high risk of coverage losses that is almost certain to fall disproportionately on Black and Latinx individuals who have experienced significant harm and dislocation during the pandemic.” Other reports, including one from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, estimate that at least 6.7 million children will be likely to lose coverage and are at considerable risk for becoming uninsured for some period of time.

Recent reporting from David Perry in GRID News points to possible avenues for the Biden administration to keep people covered and avert the crisis. Perry notes that Bethany Lilly, director of income policy at The Arc, said that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) can pressure states to prioritize the most vulnerable people by assessing their eligibility as late as possible. Lilly spoke directly to the Institute for Public Accuracy, saying, “It’s crucial for policy makers to have adults and children with disabilities front of mind as HHS and states work to plan for the upheaval to come. Medicaid isn’t just a matter of health care for people with disabilities, it’s also the services that help people live independently in their communities and go to school.” 

Other experts suggest that CMS could also extend the length of time that states have to process eligibility. Since many states have an incentive to process quickly, the best alternative might be to extend the federal PHE.

Long Covid and Public Policy: A writer on chronic illness speaks out

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“Two years into the pandemic,” writes Meghan O’Rourke in Scientific American’s special report in the magazine’s March 2022 edition, “long COVID remains one of the biggest threats it poses.” Yet public health messaging and Covid policies still generally do not highlight the risks and consequences of long Covid cases. Though the Biden administration released a joint guidance explaining that long Covid can be a disability under sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Affordable Care Act, O’Rourke contends that further shifts are needed to address the concerns of the newly disabled.

An analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, released in early February by the Center for American Progress, concludes that the pandemic has led to 1.2 million more people being identified as having a disability in 2021 than in 2020. As Laura Spinney put it in Nature last month, “A burden of future disability is being created that could have been prevented, or reduced… Rampant spread not only raises the risk of more troublesome variants evolving, it also sets more people up for long-term health problems – especially those who are already marginalized – and it limits the lives of millions for whom vaccines are unavailable or ineffective.”

Available for interviews:

MEGHAN O’ROURKE, meghan@meghanorourke.com, @meghanor.
O’Rourke is the editor of the Yale Review. Her most recent book is The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness.

O’Rourke writes that long Covid was “rarely discussed in public health messaging during the Delta and Omicron waves; officials focused on acute severe disease and death and largely ignored the debilitating – and life-altering – long-term effects that the virus has on so many people. We’ve had even fewer conversations about the societal responsibilities we have toward a growing generation of sick people, many of whom are between the ages of 30 and 50.”

When asked why she thinks it took so long for some experts to recognize and legitimize long Covid, O’Rourke responded: “We don’t understand [long COVID] well yet; it looks different in different people; we are working on understanding what biomarkers may or may not characterize it. And finally, it is the case that the term may be an umbrella under which several possibly distinct categories of diseases fall: conditions like dysautonomia and POTS; autoimmune disease triggered by SARS-COV-2 infection; micro-blood clots; ME/CFS or something like it; or all of the above, and more. I understand why researchers want to start to bear down on what long Covid means, and try to identify who has, say, autoimmune disease. That is all well and good and could bring knowledge that will help patients. But I also find a pernicious reflex at work: our uncertainty about the condition – the current unavoidable slipperiness of the term – is being turned into evidence against the ‘reality’ of this condition in strange and irrational ways. [Researchers like Adam] Gaffney go quickly to the idea that long Covid may in fact be triggered by anxiety, without talking much about the literature on infection-associated conditions such as POTS or dysautonomia. I think it’s really, really important for public accuracy that science’s real need to try to identify whether there might in fact be different forms of long Covid not be – irrationally! – equated too quickly with “and therefore it is likely overblown/caused by anxiety/stress etc.”

Policy decisions to address long Covid need to include “more patients’ voices and patient-led input,” O’Rourke said. “Deep, authentic thought put into making patients’ lives better in three-dimensional ways, even if a therapeutic proves initially elusive. A sense of authentic engagement with the scope of the problem. Right now, too often one sees a desire to pretend this problem doesn’t quite exist. Media accounts often talk about the reduction in risk that Covid leads to death, but we should also be grappling with the risk of long Covid in our policy decisions. It doesn’t kill you, but it can ruin your life.”

Ukraine: Is the U.S. Furthering or Preventing Negotiations?

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HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, hassan@fcnl.org, @HassanElTayyab
While most reporters at the White House have pressed the administration to be more hawkish on Ukraine, Ryan Grim of the The Intercept asked the White House what role it was playing to promote negotiations. “One of the steps we’ve taken — a significant one — is to be the largest provider of military and humanitarian and economic assistance in the world, to put them in a greater position of strength as they go into these negotiations,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Grim’s piece in The Intercept, “Will the United States Empower Zelenskyy to Negotiate an End to the War?” extensively quotes El-Tayyab, legislative director for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation: “The United States is in a punishment mindset with regards to Russia and it needs to quickly transition to a more balanced, diplomacy-based approach, that includes clear incentives, off-ramps for sanctions, and a realistic pathway to a ceasefire. While only Ukraine and Russia can ultimately decide the framework for a negotiated settlement, the United States can help talks by signaling it would support a deal that ends the conflict and meaningfully preserves Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

El-Tayyab added: “If the Biden administration shows it’s willing to lift sanctions if peace talks are successful, and champions possibilities for compromise as they emerge, it can positively contribute to ending the conflict and suffering of millions of innocent Ukrainians.”

El-Tayyab has worked extensively to end the Saudi bombing of Yemen. Jeremy Scahill summarizes information from the Yemen Data Project: “Over the past four months, the U.S.-armed and supported Saudi regime has engaged in its most sustained period of heavy bombing of Yemen since 2018. Since 2015, air strikes/air raids have killed at least 8,900 civilians.” Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the Biden administration is continuing to arm the Saudis as they escalate their bombing. See El-Tayyab’s latest piece “Lawmakers take action on Biden’s failed Yemen policy.”

New Investigative Report Reveals How Koch Network and Other Groups Shaped the School Safety Debate

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Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance easing mask recommendations for up to 70% of Americans, including in schools. A new investigative report – produced by a partnership between the Center for Media and Democracy and The Daily Poster –  shows how the end to mask-wearing in schools marks the culmination of a two-year public debate about school safety that has been heavily influenced by right-wing money groups, including the network of oil billionaire Charles Koch. (The recent shift in CDC guidance for schools goes against a CDC study released on March 8 that suggests masking helped protect children from the virus in the fall of 2021.) The new report was authored by reporters Alex Kotch and Walker Bragman.

Available for interviews: 

WALKER BRAGMAN, walkerbragman@gmail.com, @walkerbragman
    Bragman is a reporter for The Daily Poster and co-founder of OptOut Media Foundation, a nonprofit charity that promotes independent media and produces the OptOut news app.

Kotch and Bragman write that right-wing business interests have pushed to keep the country’s schools open for “the sake of maintaining corporate profits. These interests have been meddling in the education debate, first pushing to reopen schools and then fighting in-school safety measures, even as COVID case numbers were rising and children were ending up in hospitals. For nearly two years, these groups have been promoting questionable science and creating wedges between parents, teachers, and administrators in order to get America back to work––even at the risk of the nation’s children.”

This investigation is a follow-up to a report published in January 2022 by the same authors. The original report tells the story of the “nearly two-year campaign by right-wing and big business interests to force a return to normalcy to boost corporate profits” amid the pandemic, fighting to end lockdowns and other basic public safety measures to ensure corporate profit. 

School closures were no different, suggest Kotch and Bragman. Indeed, in spring 2020, as it became clear that school closures affected the ability of millions of parents to get back to work, Koch-affiliated groups began pushing to reopen schools. The investigation cites a long series of incidents in the past two years highlighting how business-aligned groups have pushed this “school normalcy campaign” through aggressive political advocacy, lobbying, and media efforts. These tactics were redoubled this winter as Omicron surged and threatened to cause another round of school closures. The campaign has proven successful; “the CDC’s recent about-face on masks followed weeks of pressure from media declaring it was time to return to pre-pandemic schooling.” 

As Justin Feldman, social epidemiologist of Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, noted: “Policies about COVID in schools have often been at the vanguard of the push to reopen society more broadly. Removing school mask requirements (with the end of quarantine and isolation likely to follow) can be seen as yet another push to get people to accept the status quo.”

Postol on Accidental Nuclear War: “We Should be Very Alarmed”

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THEODORE A. POSTOL, postol@mit.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Postol is professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. He said today: “We should be very alarmed. Every day of high tensions, nuclear alert and war increases the chances of not only unpredictable escalations, but of accidental nuclear war.”

Postol explained: “The Russian early warning system is nothing like the U.S. early warning system. The U.S. government knows when a ballistic missile has been launched anywhere in the world. The Russian’s can’t do that. They completely rely on ground-based early warning radars against nuclear surprise attack. As a result of this, the Russians are susceptible to thinking they are under an attack when they are not. The Russian false alert of 1995 illustrates the serious dangers to the U.S. from this limitation in Russia’s early warning systems. The 1995 false alarm happened to take place during a politically calm time between Moscow and Washington. If such a mistake were to happen now, there would be a very serious risk of nuclear war which would kill billions of people. In the U.S., there has been virtually no concern on this issue.”

“Instead, Washington has withdrawn from treaties in recent years like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This has obviously upset the Russians.”

See Postol’s 2015 piece in the Boston Globe: “How a nuclear near-miss in ’95 would be a disaster today.”

On Thursday evening, Postol will be participating in a talk online organized by the Committee for the Republic.

U.S. Activists Help Expose Occupation Akin to Ukraine

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BILL FLETCHER, billfletcherjr@gmail.com
Fletcher, Jr. is co-coordinator of the Campaign to End the Moroccan Occupation of the Western Sahara. He is also a longtime writer, trade unionist and a past president of TransAfrica Forum.

He said today: “While it is correct to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the response of the U.S. government to the invasion is filled with hypocrisy. As with the case of Israel taking Palestinian land, the U.S. has supported the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara for decades. Trump recognized Morocco’s illegal annexation of the country and the Biden administration has done nothing to change that. Is the public and media ignoring the invasion and ongoing war in Western Sahara because it is in Africa? The courageous and dramatic actions by U.S. human rights activists highlight the brutal repression of the independence activist Sultana Khaya specifically and the indigenous Sahrawi people generally.”

RUTH MCDONOUGH, Zeyn22@protonmail.com
ADRIENNE KINNE, amoolah23@protonmail.com
Both can be reached by phone through press contact: press@humanrightsactioncenter.org
The Human Rights Action Center reports: “At the invitation of the Khaya family in Boujdour, Western Sahara, U.S.-based volunteers have arrived at their home to protect them from human rights abuses and broke the 482-day siege of the house imposed by Moroccan occupation forces.”

Adrienne Kinne said Thursday: “We were in tears as we celebrated breaking the siege together and heard strong appreciation for us as U.S. citizens standing together with Saharawi women in solidarity for human rights stopping violence against women.”

HRAC states: “Since November 2020, the Khaya sisters have been forcibly confined to their home and the family has endured ongoing abuse, including home invasions, sexual violence and injections of unknown substances. The Khaya sisters have been raped by Moroccan security forces in front of their 84-year-old mother. Furthermore, their water has been poisoned, furniture and property destroyed, and electricity cut off.” See more information.

Judge Jackson’s Record

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The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court are set to begin on Monday. Media reports indicate Republicans will step up their attacks on her.

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal@gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Cohn recently wrote: “A judge serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Jackson was confirmed to the position vacated by Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland by a Senate vote of 53 to 44 last year. All 50 Democratic senators and three GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — voted for her.

“President Barack Obama appointed Jackson to be a U.S. district court judge in 2012. Jackson, who graduated with high honors from Harvard College and was editor of the Harvard Law Review … clerked for Breyer.

“Having served as a public defender, Jackson would be the only Supreme Court justice to have represented criminal defendants since Thurgood Marshall. Jackson represented several Guantánamo detainees. When she was an associate at a corporate law firm, she filed amicus briefs that supported challenges to Bush administration detention policies, including the detention of a lawful permanent resident arrested on U.S. soil as an enemy combatant with no charges.

“In her first opinion on the D.C. Circuit Court, Jackson, writing on behalf of the 3 to 0 panel, struck down a policy instituted by the Trump administration that had curtailed the bargaining power of labor unions representing more than a million federal employees. She joined a three-judge circuit court ruling in December 2021 that disallowed Trump’s claim of executive privilege to withhold White House documents from the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.

“When she was a federal district judge, Jackson penned a strong opinion in 2019 rejecting a claim made by Donald McGahn — Donald Trump’s White House Counsel — who argued that he had absolute immunity from testifying before a committee of the House of Representatives. Jackson famously wrote, ‘Presidents are not kings,’ adding, ‘They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.’ And when she was on the district court bench, Jackson voted to stop the Trump administration’s efforts to fast-track deportations.”

Ukraine War: How We Got Here, How to Get Out

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NICOLAI N. PETRO, npetro@uri.edu
Professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island, Petro was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine from 2013 to 2014 and is the author of the forthcoming book The Tragedy of Ukraine: What Classical Greek Tragedy Can Teach Us About Conflict Resolution. He has regularly written for The Nation.

He just wrote the piece “A True Solution to the Tragedy of Ukraine” for The National Interest. Petro writes: “There are multiple levels to the conflict in Ukraine.

“At one level, it is a conflict between the United States and Russia over whose sphere of influence Ukraine belongs to. As Carl Gershman, then president of the congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy put it in 2013, ‘Ukraine is the biggest prize.‘ If it could be pulled away from Russia and into the West, then ‘Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.’

“At another level, however, it is a conflict between Russian and Ukraine elites over whether their relations should be friendly or antagonistic. In Russia, antagonism is fueled by the fear that the Far Right, which has grown in influence since 2014, will drive Ukraine into becoming an ‘anti-Russia.’ In Ukraine, antagonism is fueled by the fear that friendly relations with Russia will prevent the emergence of an independent Ukrainian national identity. As former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko put it, ‘if Russians and Ukrainians are one people, then the Ukrainian people do not exist.’ These mutual fears have prevented any meaningful dialogue.

“From my perspective, this internal conflict is the most important one, because resolving it would remove the main source of domestic tension that foreign actors have used to stoke the other two levels of conflict. It can only be resolved, however, by dialogue, compassion, and mutual reconciliation among Ukrainians themselves.

“Why did Russia invade now? Because at every level, Russia’s strategy to date had ended in failure.

“Finally, and most importantly, it is also a conflict within Ukraine, between its historically more Russophile east and its historically more Russophobe west. This conflict over who gets to define Ukrainian national identity and its future has been going on for at least 150 years and has erupted in serious military hostilities inside Ukraine three times: during World War I and II and after the 2014 Euromaidan. Each time, violence erupted because external powers sought to tip the scales in their favor.

“In the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, meanwhile, Ukraine had turned its back on Russia. After Ukraine amended its constitution in February 2019 to make NATO membership a mandatory goal for all future governments, it effectively became a NATO military bulwark even without NATO membership. It was being armed to NATO standards and receiving NATO equipment and training, while Britain agreed to create and supply new naval bases in the Black Sea.

The Impact of Ukraine on Yemen

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KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv@gmail.com
Kelly just wrote the piece: “The Impact of Ukraine on Yemen,” which states: “The United Nations’ goal was to raise more than $4.2 billion for the people of war-torn Yemen by March 15. But when that deadline rolled around, just $1.3 billion had come in.

“’I am deeply disappointed,’ said Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. ‘The people of Yemen need the same level of support and solidarity that we’ve seen for the people of Ukraine. The crisis in Europe will dramatically impact Yemenis’ access to food and fuel, making an already dire situation even worse.’

“With Yemen importing more than 35 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, disruption to wheat supplies will cause soaring increases in the price of food.

“’Since the onset of the Ukraine conflict, we have seen the prices of food skyrocket by more than 150 percent,’ said Basheer Al Selwi, a spokesperson for the International Commission of the Red Cross in Yemen. ‘Millions of Yemeni families don’t know how to get their next meal.’

“The ghastly blockade and bombardment of Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is now entering its eighth year. The United Nations estimated last fall that the Yemen death toll would top 377,000 people by the end of 2021.

“The United States continues to supply spare parts for Saudi/UAE coalition war planes, along with maintenance and a steady flow of armaments. Without this support, the Saudis couldn’t continue their murderous aerial attacks.

“Yet tragically, instead of condemning atrocities committed by the Saudi/UAE invasion, bombing and blockade of Yemen, the United States is cozying up to the leaders of these countries.

“As sanctions against Russia disrupt global oil sales, the United States is entering talks to become increasingly reliant on Saudi and UAE oil production. And Saudi Arabia and the UAE don’t want to increase their oil production without a U.S. agreement to help them increase their attacks against Yemen.”

Kelly is a peace activist and author working to end U.S. military and economic wars. At times, her activism has led her to war zones and prisons.

Bush, Rumsfeld: War Criminals

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On Wednesday afternoon, Secretary of State Blinken released a statement: “War Crimes by Russia’s Forces in Ukraine.”

On Tuesday, Republicans accused Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson of calling George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld “war criminals.” Many media outlets noted inaccuracies in the statements by Republicans, but virtually none examined if the charge was actually true.

LAURIE CALHOUN, laurielcalhoun@gmail.com
Calhoun is author of several books, including We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age.

She said today: “There is a strong presumption against criticizing retired (or expired) government officials, which seems to be based on a mythical picture of what they are supposed to do, as opposed to what they actually do. To claim that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are/were ‘war criminals’ is to condemn them, but it is also the conclusion of a simple inference: if the 2003 war on Iraq was a violation of international law, then its perpetrators were war criminals, and all of those killed in the conflict were victims, whether directly or indirectly, of premeditated, intentional homicide, better known as murder.

“The United States government has been permitted since World War II to invade sovereign nations with effective impunity for the simple reason that they were positioned to crush anyone who disagreed. Unfortunately, U.S. citizens have become inured to mass homicide when inflicted on other states — well, at least some of them. In the current crisis in Ukraine, the government of Russia has blundered ahead with its invasion under the assumption that MAD (mutually assured destruction) logic will prevail, preventing a direct conflict between two nuclear-armed states, just as in the proxy wars throughout the Cold War.

“The question which must be asked is: how much destruction and how many lives will be sacrificed on behalf of power elites unwilling to undertake meaningful negotiations because they themselves stand to lose nothing, while military industry stands to profit handsomely from the conflict? The ghastly war in Yemen and resultant humanitarian crisis continues to be supported by the United States for the very same cynical reasons and yet is nearly never mentioned in the press. Both Ukraine and Yemen demonstrate that, notwithstanding the strident rhetoric of policy makers, the lives of human beings are not a significant factor in crafting U.S. foreign policy.”

See 2006 IPA release: “Bush Administration and Legal Accountability.” See 2009 analysis by the late Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, on prosecution of Bush administration officials. Also see “Farewell to Donald Rumsfeld, Dreary War Criminal” in The Intercept from 2021.

Levels of Covid-19 in Wastewater Rise Across the US

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Experts are cautioning that levels of Covid-19 in wastewater are increasing in many cities across the country. Surveillance of US wastewater sites had shown consistent declines in levels of Covid-19 across most cities in the country for the last several weeks, mirroring the decrease in cases after the first Omicron surge. The data is now showing a reversal. According to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by Bloomberg, “more than a third of the CDC’s wastewater sample sites across the US showed rising Covid-19 trends in the period ending March 1 to March 10.” Bloomberg analyzed data from more than 530 sewage monitoring sites; out of those sites, “59% showed falling Covid-19 trends, 5% were roughly stable, and 36% were increasing [over a 15-day period].” The CDC’s aggregated wastewater data and an explanation can be found here.

JULIA RAIFMAN, ScD, SM, jraifman@bu.edu, @JuliaRaifman 
    Raifman is an Assistant Professor of Health Law, Policy & Management at Boston University. She conducts research on health and social policies drivers of population health and health disparities. 

The decline in reliable case counting from reported tests has made community wastewater surveillance increasingly necessary. Dr. Raifman says: “People can shed the virus in their digestive tracts before they become symptomatic. Wastewater tracking can detect trends in Covid-19 cases before people develop symptoms and get tested, allowing time for a swift response.

“We always have to make decisions in the context of uncertainty, and should look to a rise in [Covid-19 levels in] wastewater as a signal to look closely at other indicators and be prepared to respond quickly if there are signs of a surge. A fast response is especially important in settings with high exposure, crowded indoor settings, like schools and workplaces. Every day counts with exponential spread; every case averted can reduce several other cases.

“An early warning is most helpful if policymakers use it to inform actions to reduce the surge, like implementing mask mandates to reduce transmission and letting people know that a surge is coming, to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible, and to take additional precautions. Many of the harms that occur during surges can be reduced by policymakers taking early action to reduce transmission. The United States had at least 63% more deaths than other high-income countries during the Omicron BA1 surge, which killed more than 150,000 people, including hundreds of children, in weeks. Early action could help reduce a similar toll in a BA2 surge, which looks like it could happen in the US based on wastewater trends and surges in several European countries. We see wastewater [Covid-19 levels] increasing in 37% of sites currently.

“To improve surveillance and equity, it is important to increase the number of wastewater surveillance sites. We also need further information on wastewater trends, levels, and validity in different contexts and how we interpret absolute values and trends, along with complementary types of data.”

The CDC’s aggregated data for wastewater surveillance, March 24 

Covid Funding Collapse Delays Millions of Doses of Pfizer’s Antiviral Pill

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After a $15.6 billion funding bill collapsed in Congress this month, the Biden administration warned of devastating consequences to the pandemic mitigation efforts: an impending lack of boosters and variant specific vaccines; an inability to purchase life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments; low testing capacity; and more. The Washington Post reports that without new funding, “key parts of the U.S. [Covid-19] response will need to be scaled back or halted.” 

Of particular concern is that the funding blockage has led to a delay in the Biden administration’s purchase of antiviral pills––a key aspect of the president’s new “Test to Treat” initiative, in which Americans can get tested at a local pharmacy and receive immediate, free antiviral pills in the case that their test is positive. In his State of the Union address, President Biden promised to obtain one million pills for Americans this month. Overall, Biden’s plan has been predicated on obtaining 20 million doses of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral pill. Currently, however, the administration is only contracted for 835,000 doses. The administration “is still reviewing whether it will have the funds” to obtain the rest of the doses. 

Media has already begun cautioning that even if the administration is able to secure the promised number of pills, access may not be expanded for the most vulnerable, including those in rural areas, as the FDA has still not authorized pharmacists to prescribe the pills themselves. Further, as the Denver Channel reports, “the treatments aren’t available at every pharmacy. Certain medical personnel must be on-site to administer the treatments.” Of further concern is that plans relying on antiviral treatments ignore the fact that they may carry the risk of significant drug interactions

Practicing pharmacists and physicians have their own objections to the Test to Treat approach. 

ZACKARY BERGER, MD, PhD. zberger1@jhmi.edu, @DrZackaryBerger 
    Berger is Associate Professor in the Johns Hopkins Division of General Internal Medicine and Core Faculty at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, with joint appointment in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

     Dr. Berger said today: “The Biden administration’s decisions [to move to Test to Treat] mean abandoning even previous insufficient attempts to make antivirals available to our most vulnerable.” 

DANYA QATO, PharmD, MPH, PhD. dqato@rx.umaryland.edu, @danyaqato. 
    Qato is a practicing pharmacist, epidemiologist, and health services researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine. 

    Dr. Qato said: “Taken generously, the test to treat/trace approach should be just one tack among many happening concurrently to address the spread and impact of Covid-19. It’s certainly not a panacea since it does not address challenges and disparities to access to healthcare more broadly and places a heavy burden on an already taxed pharmacy profession, many of whom practice in pharmacies without clinics and without the ability to prescribe. In addition, the test to treat plan does not address the following: racial disparities in access to pharmacies and other healthcare sites; inequitable and inadequate access to health insurance, healthcare and essential pharmaceuticals; the fact that not all pharmacists have wide prescriptive authority that would enable them to prescribe antivirals even if the [Emergency Use Authorization] was revised to authorize pharmacists as prescribers; pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are currently reporting unprecedented levels of stress and burnout due to the expansion of their roles and responsibilities during COVID-19 without adequate staff support and safeguards; the fact that those who are already sick, high-risk or immunocompromised, should not feel compelled to enter pharmacies or other treatment sites for testing or treatment, when most if not all of the mask mandates have been lifted. 

    “There are [also] significant potential drug interactions and contraindications associated with Paxlovid, and these should not be overlooked. Other medications that either enhance or inhibit the metabolic activity of the CYP3 enzyme will impact Paxlovid levels in the body. If the benefits of using Paxlovid outweigh the risk in patients taking these other medications, a pharmacist may recommend changing the dosing regimen of other therapies. In the case of antiarrhythmics like amiodarone, Paxlovid is contraindicated due to potentially serious or life-threatening interactions, and should not be taken. The risk versus benefit to any individual patient of taking any antiviral concurrently with other medications or with specific health conditions should be evaluated by a pharmacist or other trained healthcare provider with access to a patient’s full pharmacy and medical history before prescribing.”

However, it is still unclear whether the FDA is expected to revise the Emergency Use Authorization from the authority to prescribe Covid antivirals, including Paxlovid. Dr. Qato says that the EUA “specifically excluded pharmacists from the authority to prescribe [Paxlovid]. It’s unclear if the FDA will revise the EUA to enable pharmacists with independent prescriptive authority or as part of collaborative practice agreement to prescribe. Expansion of prescriptive authority is typically legislated at the state level, either through state legislatures or state boards of pharmacy. Expanding prescriptive authority, especially for chronic disease treatments and in public health states of emergency such as the one ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic, has long been championed by pharmacists. Pharmacists are more than just the ‘drug experts’; they undergo rigorous holistic clinical training in 4-year pharmacy programs before they are able to be licensed to practice. They are at the frontlines of healthcare provision as the most accessible healthcare professionals and––though their contributions are often ignored––pharmacists are at the frontlines of the COVID-19 vaccination efforts.”

Biden Adding to Military Budget as Instability Grows and Contractors Profit

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LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN, lkoshgarian@nationalpriorities.org, @lindsaykosh
Koshgarian is program director of the National Priorities Project, which just released a statement, “Biden FY 2023 budget puts war before human need“: “President Biden’s FY 2023 budget request once again prioritizes violence, the military and war over peace and human needs. But more spending on militarism can’t address the nation’s or the world’s problems.

“At $813 billion, the President’s request for the Pentagon exceeds even the $782 billion budget that Congress just passed by $31 billion. The increase alone is twice the amount that Congress refused for ongoing COVID aid for antivirals, vaccines and tests, after nearly one million Americans have died of the virus.

“The U.S. military budget is already more than the next 11 countries combined, 12 times more than Russia’s, and higher than at the peak of the Vietnam War or the Cold War. If more militarism were the key to a stable and secure world, we would already be there.

“Domestically, the U.S. has deported more than five million people over the last 20 years. The president’s budget request also continues the precedent of militarizing immigration policy, so that immigrants are met with violence, detention and surveillance. It maintains or slightly increases funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agencies responsible for family separations and abusive detention conditions for immigrants.

“There are some bright spots. The request cuts the number of beds dedicated to detention of immigrants, an inhumane policy that has subjected immigrants to abusive and dangerous conditions. It also cuts the request for the troubled F-35 jet fighter by one third, slowing the flow of money to a behemoth weapons system that has failed to meet the Pentagon’s standards. These cuts show some willingness to break with policy that is immoral and doesn’t work. Congress should maintain both of these cuts.

“Military intervention can’t fix the world’s problems, but that won’t stop contractors and hawks from calling for more military spending. Half of Pentagon funding in a typical year goes to for-profit contractors. Stock prices for weapons contractors have soared since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and weapons company leaders have spoken of the invasion as an ‘opportunity.'”

Biden’s Dangerous Call for Regime Change in Russia

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On Monday, President Biden said about his recent statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not be in power: “I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it.”

Some analysts have noted that Biden has dropped his condemnations of Saudi Arabia as it has accelerated its bombing of Yemen in recent months.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive@gmail.com@normansolomon

“By doubling down on his call for regime change, President Biden has undercut the words of top U.S. officials that appeared to ‘walk back’ his initial irresponsible statement in Warsaw,” Solomon said today. “Rather than trying to soothe the dangerous waters, Biden has made them even more dangerous. This should be condemned — rather than silently aided and abetted — by members of Congress.”

Solomon recently wrote the piece “Biden’s Dangerous Call for Regime Change in Russia,” which states: “Ever since Joe Biden ended his speech in Poland on Saturday night by making one of the most dangerous statements ever uttered by a U.S. president in the nuclear age, efforts to clean up after him have been profuse. Administration officials scurried to assert that Biden didn’t mean what he said. Yet no amount of trying to ‘walk back’ his unhinged comment at the end of his speech in front of Warsaw’s Royal Castle can change the fact that Biden had called for regime change in Russia.

“They were nine words about Russian President Vladimir Putin that shook the world: ‘For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.’

“With a reckless genie out of the bottle, no amount of damage control from the president’s top underlings could stuff it back in. ‘We do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else, for that matter,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Sunday. Such words might plausibly have less than full weight; Blinken was chief of staff at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when, in mid-2002, then-Senator Biden wielded the gavel at crucial hearings that completely stacked the witness deck in support of the subsequent U.S. invasion of Iraq, with the explicit goal of regime change. …

“Mainstream journalists have avoided putting a fine point on the likelihood that World War III just got closer thanks to Biden’s words, whether or not they were ‘a slip’ or ‘a veiled threat.’ In fact, it might never be possible to know which it was. But that ambiguity underscores that his slip and/or threat was mind-blowingly irresponsible, endangering the survival of humanity on this planet.

“Outrage is the appropriate response. And a special onus is on Democrats in Congress, who should be willing to put humanity above party and condemn Biden’s extreme irresponsibility. But prospects for such condemnation look bleak. …

“Overall, in recent weeks, President Biden has jettisoned all but the flimsiest pretenses of seeking a diplomatic solution to end the horrors of the war in Ukraine. Instead, his administration keeps ratcheting up the self-righteous rhetoric while moving the world closer to ultimate catastrophe.”

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the national director of RootsAction.org. He is the author of a dozen books including Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State, published this year in a new edition as a free e-book. His other books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions.

Why Are We Vulnerable to Food Shortages?

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At a recent news conference, President Biden said: “With regard to food shortages … it’s going to be real.”

AMANDA STARBUCK, astarbuck@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Research director with Food and Water Watch, Starbuck said today: “Our corporate-controlled, just-in-time food system does little to buffer us from supply shocks created by events like Russian’s invasion of Ukraine. In fact, it helped create the problem.

“The U.S. once had a national grain reserve. The idea is simple: purchase excess commodities during bumper years, and sell them in lean ones. Farmers benefited from stable grain prices that weren’t driven down by surpluses. And the public benefited from food stored away for years when bad weather or other events cut yields.

“Grain reserves were part of a broader supply management program created during the New Deal, that eased the volatility of boom-and-bust cycles on rural economies. Grain reserves went hand-in-hand with other tools like quotas and conservation reserves, where farmers are paid to let vulnerable land lie fallow. And supply management is fiscally-responsible; the government recuperates costs through selling grains held in reserve. In fact, the programs cost significantly less than later farm subsidy programs like direct payments or subsidized crop insurance.

“So why did the U.S. abandon these programs? In the post WWII era, agribusinesses amassed economic and political power and lobbied to rebuild a food system that worked in their favor. These efforts culminated in the 1996 ‘Freedom to Fail’ bill that ended the last vestiges of supply management. The rug was pulled out under farmers; crop prices plummeted and the U.S. had to cut checks to farmers just to keep them from going under. Meanwhile, agribusinesses purchased artificially-cheap grains to feed the growing markets for factory farm feed, ethanol and food additives.

“The world already grows enough to feed a planet of nine billion, yet hunger persists, thanks to inequality and unfair allocation of resources. In the short term, we should divert some of the countless acreage growing corn for factory farms and instead grow wheat to feed people directly. Long term goals include reinstating supply management tools like grain reserves to buffer against future supply shocks — this time ensuring that farmers of all backgrounds can participate.

“Agribusinesses stoked fears of food shortages during the pandemic to fatten their bottom lines. We must not allow them to similarly use the Ukrainian invasion to further entrench their ecologically-devastating agricultural model.”

See relevant reports from the group: “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Grocery Cartels” [PDF] and “Fair Farming: A New Deal Approach to Food Supply Management” [PDF].

“Historic” Union Victory for Amazon Workers

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MIKE ELK, mike.elk@gmail.com@MikeElk
Elk is senior labor reporter at Payday Report. His most recent piece is “Amazon Union Demands Union Reps in Discipline — Want Bargaining to Begin in May — Strike Threat on the Table.”

He said today: “The NLRB announced that the independent Amazon Labor Union in Staten Island has won an election to represent Amazon workers at its warehouse.

“The Staten Island union election is a historic victory. It marks the first time an Amazon warehouse has been unionized and it will likely inspire more unionizing efforts.

“The effort was led most incredibly by an independent union formed by rank and file workers and without the support of a major union. Workers formed the union on their own after a group of 60 workers went on a wildcat strike in March of 2020, resulting in the union’s president Christian Smalls being fired.

“No one in the labor establishment saw the victory at Amazon on Staten Island coming and no one saw 170 Starbucks stores unionizing. What else could happen this year that no one has predicted?

“This victory could inspire more rank and file organizing efforts elsewhere. For years, activists have been told that it’s impossible to organize Amazon, but now workers have achieved the impossible.”

The Folly of Lifting Mask Requirements for Airlines

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A group of CEOs from major American airlines has released an open letter from Airlines for America, a travel-industry lobbying group, calling on President Biden to end the federal transportation mask mandate and the international pre-departure Covid-19 testing requirement. The rule requiring masks on planes and other forms of transportation is already set to expire on April 18

Dr. Leana Wen––a popular CNN medical analyst, emergency physician, and visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health––has suggested that requirements could be lifted for vaccinated travelers only. She also suggested that airlines “could designate a section of the plane where people who want extra protection and agree to wear N95 or equivalent high-quality masks can sit together.” Dr. Wen has previously come under fire from progressive public health experts for bolstering the views of groups like the Urgency of Normal

But progressive public health experts have argued that the mask mandate should be kept in place.

Available for interviews:

ABDULLAH SHIHIPAR, MPH, abd2323@gmail.com, @AShihpar 
    Shihipar leads the Narrative Projects and Policy Impact Initiatives at the People, Place & Health Collective at the Brown University School of Public Health.

    Shihipar contends that mask mandates on public transportation “should continue, especially with the BA.2 variant on the horizon. Planes have good ventilation systems, but studies have shown that universal masking on planes cuts down on the number of infections should an infected person be flying. The risk is not zero, especially if you are sitting next to someone who might be carrying the virus. Planes bring together people from all different parts of the country with different rates of infection and vaccination. There are currently no requirements to be vaccinated to board a plane and flying is an essential service. It is not just for leisure: people (especially those who are higher risk) may have to fly to see family or seek medical treatment, or for some other pressing reason.

    “A masking section [on planes] makes little sense; the air is shared and there would be people without masks in [close] proximity to people with masks. It also has the potential to open up those who are masking to harassment. Masking works best in all situations if the masking is universal. In any case, it is unlikely airlines will take such measures to create a mask section. If the mandate is repealed, it is more likely that we will see circumstances in the air replicate circumstances on the ground: no mask rules or accommodations, where the burden is left up to the individual. We should keep the current mandate in place as long as the pandemic persists.”

Ukraine and International Law: Precedents of Permissibility

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ALFRED DE ZAYAS, alfreddezayas@gmail.com, @AlfreddeZayas

Alfred de Zayas is a law professor at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and served as a UN Independent Expert on International Order 2012-18. He is the author of ten books including Building a Just World Order, 2021.

He said today: “It is obvious that the best solution would have been the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which neither the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] nor the Normandy Format succeeded in doing. Russia’s two proposed treaties of December 2021 were moderate and should have been accepted in the name of a peaceful modus vivendi. If Zelensky were a patriot, he would have kept the Ukrainian people out of harm’s way and would have declared Ukraine to be neutral, and on the basis of neutrality it would have had the best relations with East and West. Unfortunately, NATO has a different agenda and its expansion eastwards finds no end. NATO is not at all a defensive alliance — certainly not since the dismantlement of the Warsaw Pact in 1991. But in order to justify its existence, NATO unilaterally declared Russia to be the ‘enemy,’ although Russia was bending over backwards to be integrated into the European and world security architecture. NATO had no place for Russia — except in the role of an ‘enemy’ that would justify the enormous military expenditures demanded from its members.

“Undoubtedly, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violated article 2(4) of the UN Charter, but there were ‘precedents of permissibility’ established by NATO countries through their aggressive wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria — all with total impunity. Bearing in mind that NATO established these ‘precedents of permissibility,’ it is not surprising that other countries follow suit.” See Zayas’ recent piece, “Precedents of Permissibility.”

He continued: “Among other massive violations of article 2(4) of the UN Charter are Israel’s countless aggressions against its Arab neighbours, the annexation of the Golan Heights, the annexation of East Jerusalem and other Palestine territories, Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Cyprus in 1974 (and fake creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), Saudi Arabia’s on-going merciless war against the people of Yemen, and the September-November 2020 aggression by Azerbaijan against the hapless Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh, who undoubtedly have the right of self-determination. All of these aggressions by NATO members and friends — were conducted with total impunity.

“The United Nations and OSCE have a responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. This requires compromise, not self-righteousness and intransigence. This requires an end to hostilities, arms shipments, threats, and a lifting of sanctions. Only thus can we build a sustainable security architecture for all. More than anything else, we need nuclear disarmament, and a conversion of military-first economies into human-security economies, as I proposed to the UN Human Rights Council in my 2014 report. We must work toward disarmament for development.”

War Is Not an Excuse to Ignore Climate Change

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The Washington Post reports: “House panel grills oil company executives on high gasoline prices.”

    Cox is senior scientist at The Land Institute and just wrote the piece “War Is Not an Excuse to Ignore Climate Change” at The Nation and TomDispatch.

He said today: “High gasoline prices have long been political kryptonite, so the Republicans, predictably, are jumping on that. And Democrats who were talking big about climate action before February 24 have suddenly gone all-in on ‘drill, baby, drill.’ The Republicans, of course, are pouncing on their opponents for that hypocrisy.

“If we could get beyond the game-playing, there’s a way to both protect consumers from inflation and ensure that every household has sufficient access to energy, and that’s price controls with rationing.”

Cox writes in his recent piece: “Speaking at a Houston clean-energy roundtable last May, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said all the right things about a damaged climate and fossil fuels. Just 10 months later, however, with that boycott of Russian oil already beginning to squeeze the economy, she returned to Houston to plead with oil and gas executives to ramp up their production to record levels. At the same time, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki was urging those very companies to use the thousands of new drilling permits the administration has issued to ‘go get more supply out of the ground’ — pronto!

“The government should place caps on the numbers of barrels of oil, cubic feet of gas, and tons of coal allowed out of the ground and into the economy annually. Those caps would be ratcheted down quickly, year by year, until extraction rates and therefore greenhouse-gas emissions were driven close to zero. Such rapidly declining caps would provide the strongest possible incentive for building renewable-energy capacity and improving energy conservation and efficiency. Fuels and probably other resources would also have to be reallocated for the production of essential goods and services. For example, the massive flow of resources that now goes to the military-industrial complex could be mostly diverted toward building renewable infrastructure and, in the process, provide a far more genuine ‘national security’ for this country.

“Like today’s disruption of global oil markets, a future phase-out of fossil fuels would indeed push energy costs up. Both here in 2022 and in that future situation, the best remedy would be to keep energy affordable through price controls and by employing fair-share rationing to ensure sufficient, equitable energy access for all. Price controls and rationing were used this way with much success during World War II. Indeed, if such rationing had been employed during the energy crisis of the 1970s, it could have prevented the endless gas-station queues and the resulting misery for which that decade is now most often remembered. Back then, fair-share gas rationing drew bipartisan support. For example, both President Jimmy Carter and the conservative columnist George F. Will called for it. But by the time Carter’s standby gas-rationing plan was finally passed by Congress in 1980, it was too late to help.”

Cox is the author of The Path to a Livable Future and The Green New Deal and Beyond.

Protests Rock Pakistan Following Imran Khan Charging U.S. Behind His Ouster 

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The journalist Sharmine Narwani tweeted: “Western Twitter oblivious to the millions pouring onto #Pakistan’s streets today to express solidarity with @ImranKhanPTI [Imran Khan] and outrage against the US-backed coup to oust him. Follow the hashtag #RevolutionBlackedOut for more.”

Khan himself tweeted: “Thank you to all Pakistanis for their amazing outpouring of support & emotions to protest against US-backed regime change abetted by local Mir Jafars [traitors] to bring into power a coterie of pliable crooks all out on bail. Shows Pakistanis at home & abroad have emphatically rejected this.”

JUNAID AHMAD, junaidsahmad@gmail.com
Ahmad is professor of religion and world politics at the University of Lahore in Pakistan and Director of the Center for the Study of Islam and Decoloniality.

   He said today: “We have seen the largest demonstrations in the country’s history — taking place in ALL cities and towns.”

Ahmad recently wrote: “While the world’s attention is understandably focused on the crisis in Ukraine, equally grave developments are taking place elsewhere. Perhaps the most consequential — and underreported — is a regime-change operation underway in Pakistan. …

    “Khan, who was democratically elected in 2018, has warned that an ‘effort is being made to topple the government with the help of foreign funds in our country.’

“’Our people are being used. Mostly unknowingly, but some knowingly are using this money against us,’ Khan said at a rally on March 27. He added that the government had proof of these payments.”

    Khan says the U.S. sent him a threatening letter and he has proof of foreign funding for a regime-change operation, aimed at reversing his independent foreign policy — like his alliance with China and Russia and support for Palestine.

    Al Jazeera reports in “Pakistan’s Shehbaz Sharif submits nomination to become new PM” that: “Younger brother of three-times Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, 70, led the opposition efforts that toppled Imran Khan.” Nawaz Sharif was last ousted as prime minister in 2017 following revelations of corruption in the Panama Papers.
    The U.S. government has denied it is behind Imran Khan’s ouster. See piece in Wall Street Journal: “Conspiracy Play — Pakistan’s prime minister says the U.S. is trying to topple his government in a ploy to hold on to power.”

    See Ahmad’s past interviews and writings at The Real News. One of his past pieces, “Liberal Fundamentalists and Imranophobia,” states: “Liberal fundamentalists detest Imran because he does not fit the bill regarding these core values and dispositions. He is the beardless internal ‘other’ who is not quite as easily dismissible as the body of the bearded religious brown man. Liberal fundamentalists want Imran to be like them but he is not, hence the visceral reactions of contempt.”

“Thus, one cannot help but laud Imran for taking initiatives such as facilitating exchange visits between students from public and private universities and madrasa students. Such experiments in listening sympathetically to the internal ‘other’ are critical to curating a less polarized and ultimately a less violent society.”

Networks Covered the War in Ukraine More than the U.S. Invasion of Iraq

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JIM LOBE, jlobe@starpower.net@LobeLog
Senior advisor and contributing editor at Responsible Statecraft, Lobe just wrote the piece: “Networks covered the war in Ukraine more than the U.S. invasion of Iraq,” which states: “The evening news programs of the three dominant U.S. television networks devoted more coverage to the war in Ukraine last month than in any other month during all wars, including those in which the U.S. military was directly engaged, since the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq, according to the authoritative Tyndall Report. The only exception was the last war in which U.S. forces participated in Europe, the 1999 Kosovo campaign.

“Combined, the three networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — devoted 562 minutes to the first full month of the war in Ukraine. That was more time than in the first month of the U.S. invasion of Panama in December 1989 (240 mins), its intervention in Somalia in 1992 (423 mins), and even the first month of its invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001 (306 minutes), according to a commentary published Thursday by Andrew Tyndall, who has monitored and coded the three networks’ nightly news each weekday since 1988.“’Astonishingly, the two peak months of coverage of the [2003] Iraq war each saw less saturated coverage than last month in Ukraine (414 minutes in March of 2003 and 455 minutes in April),’ he wrote. ‘The only three months of war coverage in the last 35 years that have been more intensive than last month were Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. …

“That was at a time, however, when the network evening news devoted about a third more time to foreign news than it has in recent years when international news coverage has fallen to all-time lows.

“Last month’s coverage of Ukraine even eclipsed by a wide margin the three networks’ coverage of the chaotic end of Washington’s 20-year war in Afghanistan last summer. Last August, the month with the most intense coverage, the three networks devoted a total of 345 minutes (or only about 60 percent of last month’s total Ukraine coverage) to the war’s abrupt denouement. Once U.S. forces had fully withdrawn by August 31, network coverage of Afghanistan fell precipitously to a total of just 103 minutes between September 1 and the end of year, despite the desperation of the country’s humanitarian situation that followed (and persists).”

Indoor Air Quality and Covid: A Federal Response Finally Gains Momentum

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The White House’s recent emphasis on improving indoor air quality to reduce virus transmission has been praised by public health experts. Linsey Marr and Jose-Luis Jimenez, two scientists who recently co-authored a piece for Time magazine on air quality and Covid-19, have argued that at the beginning of the pandemic, major public health agencies like the CDC and WHO failed to communicate that the spread of the virus is significantly driven by airborne transmission. They focused on spread via respiratory droplets rather than aerosols. These communication failures, write Marr and Jimenez, still “haunt” the U.S.: Mask mandates have been dropped across the country, for instance, but less useful public health measures––such as sanitizing and social distancing––persist. 

LINSEY MARR, PhD, mediarelations-g@vt.edu, @linseymarr 
    Marr is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and studies viruses in the air. 

Marr told the Institute for Public Accuracy that she hopes the administration’s new focus will nudge localities to adopt the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ standards and guidance into building codes (making such standards and guidance enforceable), and lead to new policies on indoor air quality.

As adjustments are made for the duration of the pandemic and beyond, it will also be important for the public to understand how we got to this place. Marr and Jimenez write that use of the word “airborne” was initially avoided because the word is associated with a “rigid set of protective methods” for hospitals––which have much better air quality than most other indoor spaces. Declaring the virus airborne in hospitals would have, among other precautions, required the use of N95 masks for physicians that were in short supply at the time. Marr told IPA that there were concerns about the “availability of resources, such as N95s, to protect healthcare workers.”

It is unclear whether hospitals and the hospital industry played any role in pushing for the use of different language. But Marr said today that it is “clear that the WHO and CDC wanted to avoid using the word ‘airborne.’ There were infection prevention and control specialists, who are the people in charge of overseeing the use of precautions to protect workers and patients in hospitals, who strongly denied that Covid-19 was airborne.

  “I think hospital definitions were deemed most important [to defining ‘airborne’] because it was medical doctors and others closely associated with hospitals who were driving the discussion about transmission and intervention.” 

Jimenez told IPA that these issues are structural; scientists who study how viruses behave have been shut out from pandemic response. “The people in charge of these decisions at the WHO and CDC tend to have a similar background and work at hospitals. For example, at the WHO, there is an Infection Prevention and Control Committee that reviews the science and decides how the virus is transmitted and how to prevent infection. It seems that everybody in that committee who took part in these discussions worked at a hospital… There was a pretty uniform background of the people making the decisions.” 

Key Covid Coverage Ends as Federal Funds Run Dry

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Last month, uninsured people lost access to free Covid-19 tests and treatments after the end of the Health and Resources Administration’s Covid-19 Uninsured Program. The program, which reimbursed providers for pandemic care for uninsured Americans, was in operation for nearly two years but stopped accepting claims for testing and treatment coverage on March 23. In many states, residents are also no longer able to get free Covid-19 vaccines or boosters. 

Dr. Adam Gaffney has detailed some of the devastating consequences of coverage ending. Gaffney is the coauthor of a February 2022 paper which showed that in 2020, uninsured adults were less likely than insured ones to have been tested for Covid-19 despite having higher rates of positive test results. Although the Families First Coronavirus Act, and then the CARES Act, required insurers to cover tests and provided public payment for testing uninsured people, the uninsured were still often charged for testing. The paper concluded that cost concerns likely stopped some uninsured people from seeking Covid-19 testing. 

ADAM GAFFNEY, MD, MP, gaffney.adam@gmail.com, @awgaffney
    Gaffney is a critical care doctor, a healthcare researcher, and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

Gaffney told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “When Covid-19 began, policymakers realized that our fragmented healthcare system was not up to the task of facing a pandemic, so they passed laws providing funds for Covid-19 care for the uninsured. But today, with another pandemic wave looming, those funds are now all used up, and the uninsured are going to pay the consequences. Unless Congress takes action, there is no longer federal coverage for Covid-19 testing, treatment and vaccine administration for the uninsured.

    “The uninsured will now be deterred from obtaining Covid-19 care or treatment––which could contribute to viral spread, or worsen outcomes by delaying care for these vulnerable individuals. After all, we now have treatments that can help prevent severe complications after onset of Covid-19––but only when taken early. Cost barriers could hence prove deadly for the uninsured. And those who do obtain care may pay for it with sky high medical bills.

    “Congress must act by immediately providing funds to keep the Uninsured Program afloat. This measure would be much needed, but still only a bandaid. We need a universal healthcare system that covers care for everyone for this and all other diseases.”

NATO, Russia and Nuclear Threats

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Reuters reports in “Russia warns of nuclear, hypersonic deployment if Sweden and Finland join NATO” that “Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that should Sweden and Finland join NATO then Russia would have to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea.”

GREG MELLO, gmello@lasg.org
Mello is executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group. He said today: “At this point NATO is the largest military organization on the planet, with military investments greater than all other nations put together. Russia cannot hope to match NATO in overall military firepower. It is entirely predictable that the further expansion of NATO would evoke a response from Russia that emphasizes its nuclear forces.

“It doesn’t matter too much where those Russian nuclear forces are, especially since the U.S. abrogated the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty. Russia has many nuclear-capable delivery systems. It would be a shame if more of these acquired nuclear warheads” were to be deployed “in response to an increase in perceived threat from NATO, in the event that Sweden and Finland were to join NATO.

“In that event, Russia will need to consider the likelihood of NATO nuclear assets being based in or launched from these countries, in addition to nuclear weapons that could be launched from the nearby seas, other NATO countries, and from the air via stand-off missiles. The threat assessment time available to Russia in the event of a perceived attack from NATO would be very short, almost nonexistent.

“There is no question that the expansion of NATO raises the overall risk of nuclear war to a much higher level than it is today, which is already higher, in my estimation, than has been seen since the early 1980s.

“Let us hope that mature voices in Sweden and Finland can dial back these impulsive responses we are seeing to war propaganda that is filling informational channels right now. As Hannah Arendt remarked, where there is no free press, ‘anything is possible.’ That ‘anything’ now includes the extermination of the human race. Everybody needs to stop, investigate what has really been going on, think, and talk — not take impetuous actions that will make matters far worse.”

Background: See IPA news release “Will Congress Save Nuclear Treaties with Russia?” from 2018.

U.S. Senate: Prosecute Russia War Crimes, not Ours

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MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal@gmail.com@marjoriecohn

Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She just wrote the piece “After Undermining International Criminal Court, U.S. Now Wants It to Charge Russians,” which states: “Although the United States has tried mightily to undermine the International Criminal Court (ICC) since it became operational in 2002, the U.S. government is now pushing for the ICC to prosecute Russian leaders for war crimes in Ukraine. Apparently, Washington thinks the ICC is reliable enough to try Russians but not to bring U.S. or Israeli officials to justice.

“On March 15, the Senate unanimously passed S. Res 546, which ‘encourages member states to petition the ICC or other appropriate international tribunal to take any appropriate steps to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian Armed Forces.’

“When he introduced the resolution, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said, ‘This is a proper exercise of jurisdiction. This is what the court was created for.’ The United States has refused to join the ICC and consistently tries to undercut the court. Yet a unanimous U.S. Senate voted to utilize the ICC in the Ukraine conflict.”

Cohn’s piece explains how limitations on the ICC, put in place by France, Britain and other countries, foreclose the possibility of the ICC actually prosecuting Russian officials for the crime of aggression.

She concludes: “U.S. hypocrisy is no more apparent than in the first ‘Whereas’ clause of the Senate’s unanimous resolution condemning Russia. It says, ‘Whereas the United States of America is a beacon for the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights across the globe…’

“One hundred members of the U.S. Senate affirmed that sentiment in spite of the U.S. wars of aggression” in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the commission of U.S war crimes.

Future of Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Waivers Is in Doubt

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More than a year after the first Covid-19 vaccines went into use, only 15 percent of people in low-income countries have received a single dose of the vaccine. Last month, leaked documents showed that the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa had reached consensus on a possible compromise that would only suspend patents for three or five years–– a proposal that was met with a backlash from activists urging President Biden to reject it. On March 30, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that no agreement had been reached. 

Tahir Amin––the cofounder and co-executive director of I-MAK, an organization with the express purpose of reshaping patent law to better serve public health––told the Institute for Public Accuracy that the compromise was a “half-baked solution. That it took 17 months to come up with a text that falls so far short is a failure of multilateralism.”

TAHIR AMIN, tahir@i-mak.org, @realtahiramin 

    The proposed compromise text is not the full waiver of IP [intellectual property] rights that South Africa and India had originally proposed back in October 2020,” Amin said today. “Instead, it mostly restates what countries can already do under the current rules of the TRIPS Agreement. The text represents everything that the U.S. and European Union have indicated they would be prepared to agree to––and very little of what India, South Africa, and all the other sponsoring and supporting countries of the TRIPS waiver asked for. 

    “It shows––as has always been the case, since the idea of the WTO and TRIPS Agreement first emerged and were then created in 1995––that the Global North and their corporations hold the power. The structure of the WTO is not democratic or built to allow Global South countries equity in the political economy of innovation. 

    “Given the history of the last 28 years of the TRIPS Agreement and the various attempts Global South countries have made to address the ongoing barriers of IP to access medicines, vaccines and climate change technologies, India, South Africa and other member states of the WTO from the Global South would be advised to reject the compromise and go back to the table to push for more. Signing the compromise text would be a step backwards for the Global South, repeating the last 28 years of policy failure at the WTO. They can ill afford that, as we are not yet out of this pandemic and are likely to experience more pandemics––as well as the climate crisis––going forward.”

Pentagon Contractors Cashing in on the Ukraine Crisis

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WILLIAM HARTUNG, williamhartung55@gmail.com,

JULIA GLEDHILL, julia.gledhill@pogo.org

Hartung and Gledhill just wrote the piece “The New Gold Rush: How Pentagon Contractors Are Cashing in on the Ukraine Crisis.”

They write: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought immense suffering to the people of that land, while sparking calls for increased military spending in both the United States and Europe. Though that war may prove to be a tragedy for the world, one group is already benefiting from it: U.S. arms contractors.

“Even before hostilities broke out, the CEOs of major weapons firms were talking about how tensions in Europe could pad their profits. In a January 2022 call with his company’s investors, Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes typically bragged that the prospect of conflict in Eastern Europe and other global hot spots would be good for business, adding that ‘we are seeing, I would say, opportunities for international sales… [T]he tensions in Eastern Europe, the tensions in the South China Sea, all of those things are putting pressure on some of the defense spending over there. So I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit from it.’ …

“For U.S. arms makers, however, the greatest benefits of the war in Ukraine won’t be immediate weapons sales, large as they are, but the changing nature of the ongoing debate over Pentagon spending itself. Of course, the representatives of such companies were already plugging the long-term challenge posed by China, a greatly exaggerated threat, but the Russian invasion is nothing short of manna from heaven for them, the ultimate rallying cry for advocates of greater military outlays. Even before the war, the Pentagon was slated to receive at least $7.3 trillion over the next decade, more than four times the cost of President Biden’s $1.7 trillion domestic Build Back Better plan, already stymied by members of Congress who labeled it ‘too expensive’ by far. And keep in mind that, given the current surge in Pentagon spending, that $7.3 trillion could prove a minimal figure.”

Gledhill is an analyst at the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex.

Will Congress Stop the Worst Humanitarian Crisis, the Saudi Attack on Yemen?

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A just-published piece in Forbes, “Time to End the Forgotten War in Yemen,” states: “The scenes of carnage in Ukraine have sparked anger and concerted action against the Russian invasion of that country, now in its eighth week. But there is another conflict, now in its eighth year, that has resulted in the deaths of nearly half a million people and driven millions more to the brink of starvation — the war in Yemen. And unlike the war in Ukraine, where Washington faces daunting obstacles in attempting to end Russian atrocities, the United States has considerable leverage in bringing the Yemen conflict to an end, and soon.

“The current war in Yemen began with the March 2015 Saudi/UAE-led intervention aimed at defeating the indigenous Houthi movement and restoring the prior regime to power. The Saudi leadership, led by then defense minister and current Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, promised a short war. Instead, the intervention has sparked the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with non-combatants suffering the vast bulk of the casualties due to Saudi air strikes and a smothering air and sea blockade that has reduced imports of fuel and humanitarian aid that are essential to run hospitals and provide essential provisions to Yemenis.”

AISHA JUMAAN, MD, aisha@yemenfoundation.org@AishaJumaan
Dr. Jumaan is president of the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation and is quoted in the Forbes piece. She is in transit for the next day but is generally available for interviews.

JEHAN HAKIM, yemenialliancecommittee@gmail.com@jehan_hakim
Hakim is chair of the Yemeni Alliance Committee.

The two groups — along with 70 others — have signed a letter to Congress: “Congress must reassert its Article I war powers, terminate U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war and blockade, and do everything it can to support the Yemen truce. Our organizations look forward to the introduction of the Yemen War Powers Resolution. We urge all members of Congress to say ‘no’ to Saudi Arabia’s war of aggression by fully ending all U.S. support for a conflict that has caused such immense bloodshed and human suffering. …

    “In Yemen today, roughly 20.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid for survival, with up to 19 million Yemenis acutely food insecure.  A new report indicates that 2.2 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition over the course of 2022 and could perish without urgent treatment.”

    Jumaan told Forbes: “The fragile truce between the Saudi-led coalition and Ansar Allah [the Houthis] is a golden opportunity for the Biden administration to push for an end to Saudi Arabia’s brutal war and war crimes against the Yemeni people.”

  She added: “The War Powers Resolution is essential to make clear that the United States won’t militarily support more Saudi airstrikes on Yemeni civilians. By supporting Reps. Jayapal and DeFazio’s Yemen War Powers Resolution, Congress can do its part to keep Saudi Arabia and its allies negotiating in good faith and bring this devastating conflict to an end.”

    Jumaan and Hakim also note that the Saudi government of Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud has recently pushed aside the Yemini group it was backing, see recent piece in the Wall Street Journal: “Saudi Arabia Pushed Yemen’s Elected President to Step Aside, Saudi and Yemeni Officials Say.”

    Hakim notes that the U.S. government has been protecting the Saudis from scrutiny and criticism for their devastation of Yemen at the United Nations. The U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, recently addressed the situation in Yemen by lauding alleged relief efforts by the Saudi regime — and blaming Putin for Yemeni food shortages because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine “even though Yemen has been in crisis for years due to the blockade.”

Earth Day: Military Degradation of the Environment

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PAT ELDER, pelder@militarypoisons.org, @militarypoisons
Elder is the founder of MilitaryPoisons.org. He said today: “On Earth Day we ought to be talking about the deadly chemicals the U.S. military has recklessly dumped into the soil, water, and the air in every state. Let’s talk about cyanide, chlorinated hydrocarbons, lead, thallium, antimony, or chromium polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). We plant trees and we talk about cleaning the earth while the military continues to poison people and the planet with white phosphorus, benzene, xylene, toluene, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE).

“Rachel Carson, the great American environmentalist [author of Silent Spring], warned us in 1962, ‘If we are living so intimately with these chemicals, we had better know something about their power.’

“It’s Earth Day, so let’s think about how the military dictates environmental policy in the U.S. and how the EPA is a stooge for industrial and military masters.

“Then, let’s consider the military’s alpha-chlordane, benzoapyrene, cesium-137, chromium VI, cobalt-60, anthracene, dieldrin, gamma-chlordane, heptachlor, epoxide, radium-226, strontium-90, and uranium-238 in our backyards. Yeah; it’s tough to read.

“On Earth Day. Let’s consider what causes cancers, immeasurable suffering, and early deaths for millions.

“And then we can talk about per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and how the military has known these are killer chemicals since the 1970’s but continued to use them in firefighting foams. We can examine how concentrations of these chemicals in the single parts per trillion in the food we eat and the water we drink can send us to an early grave and rearrange the DNA of our progeny forever.

“Fish containing several million parts per trillion of PFOS have been caught near military bases while the same states regulate the chemicals at 70 ppt or less in drinking water. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says most of the PFAS in our bodies is from the food we eat. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), said in 2015 that food is the primary source of exposure to PFAS. It’s the food, especially the fish that are making us sick.”

See profile of Elder in the Baltimore Sun from last year: “Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ found in Maryland water” and IPA news releases: “U.S. Military Poisoning Nationally and Globally with Toxic Chemicals” and “Toxic Military ‘Burn Pits’ Across the U.S. and in Iraq: Why Are They Allowed?

Mask Mandate on Public Transportation

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The Biden administration is appealing the decision by a federal judge in Florida who ruled a mask mandate on public transportation unlawful. The surprise ruling led to announcements by airlines and Amtrak that they were dropping the mandate. The ruling also led the Transportation Security Administration to stop enforcing the mandate

The Justice Department filed notice of plans to appeal the decision on Wednesday, after the CDC stated that the mask mandate remains necessary for public health.

BEATRICE ADLER-BOLTON, bea.bolton@gmail.com, @realLandsEnd
    Adler-Bolton is a blind/low vision and chronically ill disability justice advocate. She is the co-host of the Death Panel podcast. 

The Institute for Public Accuracy reported on the public-health drawbacks of lifting the federal transportation mask mandate early this month.

Adler-Bolton told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “This week U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the CDC’s transportation mask mandate using a bizarre misinterpretation of the 1944 Public Health Service Act, essentially claiming that the point of all public health interventions is to administer public sanitation — which, Mizelle argued, masks do not do. Mizelle framed the issue as being about the freedom of travelers who, like plaintiff Ana Daza, have ‘anxiety aggravated by wearing a mask.’ The argument Mizelle is making is common among Covid-denialist and anti-vaccine pundits and furthers the inaccessibility of our built environment in the Covid-era. 

    “Reluctantly, the Biden administration has announced that they plan to fight this ruling. Their significant delay was the cause of much alarm among disabled, immunocompromised, or otherwise medically vulnerable people, and the people in their lives. The removal of mask mandates––in terms of both the additional physical, biological, and economic barriers it introduces and the additional burden of higher levels of community viral transition––is a retrenchment of social rights for the medically vulnerable. 

    “A mask mandate on all publicly accessible transportation is well within the CDC’s rights under the 1944 Public Health Service Act. It is also a necessary requirement to protect the vulnerable as cases rise all around us. Now is the time to increase our demands and increase the pressure on the politicians, systems, institutions and entrenched corporate interests which have all the power here.”

Kristin Urquiza––cofounder of Marked By COVID, an activist group that advocates for the needs of those most harmed by the pandemic––added in a public statement that after the mask mandate ended, “immunocompromised [people] were thrown into unexpected danger… For some, it meant suddenly being trapped with no escape and no ability to make a decision for their health and safety as captains announced mid-air that masks were no longer required. Without notice, the immunocompromised have been thrust into the shadows with no safe way to use air travel or public transit because of the actions of a judge unfit to make the decision.” (Legal experts have argued that the Florida judge’s reasoning was weak, and that she “misunderstood public health law.”)

Refuting Anti-Vaccine Disinformation on so-called “VAIDS”

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Recent reporting from Coda reveals that online anti-vaccine influencers––including Dr. Joseph Mercola, one of the top spreaders of vaccine misinformation during the pandemic––are claiming that Covid-19 vaccines, particularly booster shots, cause AIDS, or “VAIDS.” Coda and ScienceUpFirst, an organization working to counter misinformation, concluded: “Vaccine Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (VAIDS) does not exist. It is a made-up condition by players participating in the anti-vaccine movement as a way to induce fear and undermine the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”

Available for interviews:

JOHN MOORE, MD, jpm2003@med.cornell.edu (Dr. Moore prefers interviews during the working week from 11am-5pm ET.) 
    Moore is a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine who is widely known for his research on HIV/AIDS.

He told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Reliable estimates from two different research groups are that between 135,000 and 160,000 unvaccinated Americans died of Covid-19 during the period in 2021 when they had ready access to the literally life-saving vaccines. A substantial proportion of these deaths lie at the hands of the peddlers of vaccine disinformation.

“This iteration of anti-vaccine disinformation––involving linking Covid-19 vaccination to AIDS––is ludicrous and has been completely debunked. Bringing AIDS into the existing web of [vaccine misinformation and] deceit is a blatant attempt at fear-mongering. All of this will yet further strengthen resistance to taking vaccines, and hence cause even more avoidable deaths.”

In 2021, the Stanford Virality Project––a global study aimed at understanding the disinformation dynamics specific to the Covid-19 pandemic––found that historically, anti-vaccine narratives focus on undermining the public’s belief in the safety of the vaccines. Anti-vaccine activists and influencers have capitalized on the same fears around Covid-19 vaccines. At times, false and misleading information, including this newer claim about “VAIDS,” states or implies that the Covid-19 vaccines or their ingredients are in some way poisonous or can cause new, contagious symptoms. 

* Mexico Voting to Nationalize Lithium * Pakistan’s Ousted PM Challenged Corporate Investment Agreements

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MANUEL PÉREZ-ROCHA, manuel@ips-dc.org@ManuelPerezIPS
Mexico lawmakers recently approved a bill to nationalize lithium. Pérez-Rocha writes in the Mexican outlet La Jornada: “Our Lithium and Investment Treaties” that: “Frustrated were the traitors of previous administrations and mining companies that salivated over the lithium in our country. They warn that the nationalization of lithium in Mexico contravenes the T-MEC [United States-Mexico–Canada Agreement]. The truth is that chapter 14-E of this treaty is limited to protecting companies with ‘government contracts’ from sectors that do not include the mining sector.”

He also recently wrote the piece “Ousted Pakistani Leader Was Challenging Investment Treaties That Give Corporations Excessive Power” for Inequality.org about how Mexico and many other countries are facing anti-democratic corporate lawsuits like the case that pushed Prime Minister Imran Khan to withdraw from international investment agreements.

Pérez-Rocha explained: “The parliament of Pakistan recently ousted Khan in a no-confidence vote. The reasons for the former cricket star’s political downfall are not entirely clear. His economic policies were a mixed bag at best, but he deserves credit for one thing: he’d taken a bold stand against international investment agreements that give transnational corporations excessive power over national governments.”

Also, see excerpts from Khan’s address before the UN General Assembly in 2021 where he notes that the “Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) has calculated that a staggering $7 trillion in stolen assets are parked in financial ‘haven’ destinations.”

Albright’s Legacy and Ukraine War

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This morning, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who eulogized Colin Powell last year, is scheduled to be eulogized by President Joe Biden and Bill and Hillary Clinton at the National Cathedral.

SAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini@gmail.com@samhusseini
Communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini just wrote the piece “Albright’s Funeral — The Sword and the Cross Come Together” on his Substack. He said today: “Albright’s policies of expanding NATO, bombing Yugoslavia and falsely claiming that the bombing of the Chinese embassy there was not intentional helped set the stage for the extraordinarily dangerous situation now with Russia and China, despite recent claims from the Clintons. These policies may have actually helped lead to the rise of Vladimir Putin — he was given an elevated position by then-President Boris Yeltsin just after the bombing of Yugoslavia started in March of 1999. Albright helped deceive the public regarding the negotiations with Yugoslavia at Rambouillet, setting them up to fail to justify the bombing.

“Regarding Iraq, some are aware that she said the price of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi children was ‘worth it,’ but even more insidious was her forcing a policy which maintained the sanctions regardless of the Iraqi government’s actions. This led to massive suffering, and ultimately, to the destruction of the UNSCOM weapons inspection regime. It also set the stage for the ultimate invasion of Iraq by her successor and friend, Colin Powell. And it helped propel an era where sanctions, which frequently target civilians, are quickly utilized. Albright worked hand in glove with Biden and the Clintons in all this, when the credibility of any were scrutinized, each would back up the other, regardless of the facts.”

JAMES CARDEN, james.carden@gmail.com
Columnist for the Asia Times and a former U.S. State Department advisor. He said today: “If President Clinton’s major mistake with regard to Russia was pushing NATO expansion, a close runner up would be his policy toward the former Yugoslavia. It was in this area that Clinton failed to take heed of the warning his predecessor Bush issued in Kiev on August 1, 1991 regarding ‘suicidal nationalism.’ It indeed might be fair to say that Clinton’s policy towards Serbia set the stage for what we are now seeing in Ukraine.

“The Clinton administration’s bombing of Serbia 1999 set the template for what George W. Bush attempted in Iraq, and, later, what Barack Obama attempted in Libya and Syria. In the absence of U.N. sanction, Clinton launched a 78-day bombardment of Serbia, ostensibly undertaken to prevent what was said to be the looming slaughter of Albanian Kosovars by Serbian forces.

“Kosovo, and later American interventions in Iraq, Syria, Libya, combined with the American-sponsored ‘color revolutions’ in Eastern Europe in the 2000s, all fed Russian president Putin’s paranoia about American intentions — and his fears of American-sponsored regime change in Moscow. As the novelist Joseph Heller once wrote: ‘Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.’

“Russia’s reaction to Clinton’s policy, particularly with regard to its illegal war on Belgrade helped to feed the crisis from the other end: It is useful to recall that the precedent for Russia’s unilateral recognition of the breakaway republics of Dontesk and Luhansk was set by the U.S. in February 2008 when the it recognized the independence of Kosovo.

“To the end, Albright took immense, if perverse pride in her role in violently carving out a footprint for Saudi Arabia in the middle of Europe. In 2012, a small group of Serbians, who, after all, were the targets of the American aerial assault in 1999, showed up to protest Albright’s appearance at a bookstore in Prague in 2012. Albright arrogantly shouted ‘Get out disgusting Serbs!’ before slithering away from the protestors.”

Pandemic Poverty and Government Policies

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The Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak economic havoc, while other global crises threaten to continue driving up inflation in the United States. Yet Julia Raifman––a Boston University assistant professor who tracks states’ policies relevant to Covid-19 and the economy––writes that we are “largely out of policies” that provide economic support to families. The Urban Institute notes that “economic supports for families have fallen to their lowest point since before March 2020.” 

SHAWN FREMSTAD, fremstad@cepr.net, @ShawnFremstad
    Fremstad is a Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, with expertise in inequality, poverty, family policy, and Social Security and assistance programs. 

Fremstad told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “Today’s high inflation is being driven by excessively powerful corporations. Until recently, strong employment gains and support from temporary policies like the expanded Child Tax Credit shielded the diverse working class from harm. But it is now clear that corporate greed is hitting the working class head on. According to the Census Bureau, just over one in three adults (about 34 percent) now report difficulty paying for the usual household expenses, the highest level we’ve seen since early 2021. Food insecurity has also returned to its highest level (11.2 percent) since early 2021. Congress and the Biden administration need to take action to rein in corporate power, increase working class power, and establish universal social insurance programs like child care assistance and child allowances.”

Research shows that the child tax credit helped millions get enough to eat. In 2021, the American Rescue Plan expanded the policy, making the credit monthly and expanding it to the lowest-income households. Yet the policy ended in December 2021, when Congress failed to renew the program. This month, The New Republic reported that without the provision that allowed lowest-income households to qualify for the benefit, “a third of children––including half of Black and Latino children and 70 percent of children raised by single mothers––did not receive the full credit.” NPR reports that in December 2021, when the last payment was made, 3.7 million children were kept out of poverty, but in January 2022, 3.7 million children fell into poverty. 

Research from the Urban Institute has shown that a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit would:

  • Reduce child poverty by more than 40 percent in a typical year;
  • Reduce child poverty by at least 30 percent in every state and 50 percent in 11 states;
  • Help children of all demographic groups;
  • Reduce child poverty for Black children by more than 50 percent. 

“Debt Shaming” Has Dampened Democracy

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INDIA WALTON, india@rootsaction.org@Roots_Action

    Walton, who emerged last year as a powerful presence in the progressive movement after a stunning Democratic primary victory over a 16-year incumbent mayor of Buffalo, is now the senior strategic organizer for RootsAction.org. She is leading the RootsAction campaign #WithoutStudentDebt. See: withoutstudentdebt.us.
    She just wrote the piece “‘Debt Shaming’ Has Dampened Democracy“: “When I ran for mayor of Buffalo, New York, last year, my past-due parking tickets became a major reason for reduced favorability among voters. When Stacy Abrams ran for governor of Georgia in 2018, there was a lot of talk in the mainstream media about how much debt she was in. I share these examples because in general, the working poor do not willfully withhold payment for debts. We are faced with the very real decision between paying often illegitimate debts (like parking tickets and student loans) and feeding our children or paying for life-saving medical treatment for our loved ones.

“New York State’s recently passed $220 billion budget has me thinking about the broad acceptance of the idea that the wealthy are best equipped to make the decisions that are supposed to benefit the public at large. The state decided that it was a wise decision to give $650 million to the billionaire owners of the Buffalo Bills while turning a blind eye to the crumbling infrastructure, lack of decent housing, and struggling education system in cities like Buffalo. …

“As we look to 2022 midterm elections, voters are questioning the failure of a Democratic majority in Congress to deliver voting rights, the Build Back Better bill, and cancellation of student debt. The single and most simple thing President Biden can do to help save the Democratic majority this midterm, while stimulating the economy, is cancel student debt; and he should do it without delay. In sharp contrast to other highly industrialized countries where higher education is inexpensive or free, approximately 45 million people in our country owe a total of $1.7 trillion in student debt.”

On World Press Freedom Day, Fighting Big Tech’s “Censorship by Proxy”

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MICKEY HUFF, mickey@projectcensored.org
Huff is the director of Project Censored and is co-editor, with Andy Lee Roth, of Project Censored’s State of the Free Press 2022, published by Seven Stories Press.

He said today: “In this digital era, the biggest private tech companies can engage in what we term ‘censorship by proxy,’ restricting freedom of expression or ability to raise funds in ways that the government cannot. These corporations exert control of online information through algorithms, deplatforming, demonetizing, and ultimately censoring sources and perspectives that don’t align with official U.S. government policy.

“These new media giants — including Alphabet (which owns Google and YouTube), Meta/Facebook (which also owns Instagram), Twitter, Apple, and Microsoft — function as the arbiters of public issues and legitimate discourse, despite assertions by their leaders that they are not publishers or media companies.

“The crackdown on online sources and shooting the messengers is also clearly manifest in the U.S. mission to extradite and apply the Espionage Act to publisher Julian Assange, of the whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

“In the past two months, YouTube disappeared entire Russian channels and their archives, including for RT America and Sputnik, to great applause from various sectors of American society, especially from the liberal class.

“Just in the last week, PayPal froze accounts of independent media outlets like MintPress News and Consortium News.

“Not to be outdone, last week, the Biden administration announced its own efforts to control information online with the Department of Homeland Security’s new Disinformation Governance Board.” Huff noted the influence of “the pro-NATO Atlantic Council, which is listed as a fact checker at Facebook (now Meta) and other shadowy organizations like NewsGuard.”

Huff noted that Big Tech “gatekeepers trace their technological roots back to the Cold War of the 1950s and, specifically, the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“On World Press Freedom Day, we need to remember the importance of a truly free press and Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ Those are principles worth fighting for in the face of mass censorship.”

[In “Interview with Nadine Strossen on Threat of Big Tech and Big Gov Collusion Against the First Amendment” by Sam Husseini, former ACLU head Strossen argued that “private sector actors are directly bound by constitutional norms, including the First Amendment” if they are being coerced by or colluding with the government.]

“How Censorship and Lies Made the World Sicker and Less Free”

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Joel Simon and Robert Mahoney––longtime defenders of press freedom and former directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists––are the authors of the new book The Infodemic: How Censorship and Lies Made The World Sicker and Less Free. The book investigates how political leaders in various countries, including the U.S., took advantage of the pandemic to censor evolving public health information and flood the public with lies.  

Infodemic is even more pressing in the wake of recent news that Elon Musk, who calls himself a “free speech absolutist,” has bought Twitter. Musk has a history of censorship of his own critics, including his employees. 

JOEL SIMON, JoelSimonSays@gmail.com, @JoelSimonSays 
    Simon is an author, journalist and press freedom advocate. He is currently a Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute. 

WAFAA EL-SADR, wme1@columbia.edu
    El-Sadr is the founder and director of ICAP at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and an international expert on infectious diseases and public health.

This week, Columbia Global Reports hosted a conversation on censorship and the pandemic with Simon and Mahoney. At the event, Simon and Mahoney discussed their research into how governments in Iran, China, Russia, India, Egypt, and Brazil, and the Trump White House were all part of a “wave of censorship… [in which] governments hijacked the narrative and told their own story.” 

In 2020, said Mahoney, “President Trump’s campaign strategy rested on a strong economy. Trump saw that the actions he would need to take to protect public health would curtail economic activity and undermine his campaign message. He didn’t have the ability to employ top-down censorship, so instead, he used ‘censorship through noise,’ or ‘flooding,’ to confuse the public. He pumped out information that was inaccurate, dismissed and undermined public health experts, and attacked critical journalists who told a story distinct from his own.” 

Simon noted that declines in press freedom, in the health of the information landscape, and in local journalism have been “incredibly destructive in terms of public health response.” Simon said that although the pandemic is a global crisis, “it played out in a very local way; people had local questions that required trusted local sources of information––and that’s often local journalism.”

El-Sadr said: “Infodemic provides a cohesive framework for understanding the ways different countries have responded to Covid-19 pandemic. It also raises a red flag, providing clear warning about how some of the measures put in place in some countries in the name of the Covid-19 response will have durable and detrimental effects on freedom of expression and democratic discourse beyond the pandemic.”

“Handbook for a Post-Roe America”

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ROBIN MARTY, via Ruth Weiner, ruth@sevenstories.com, @robinmarty
Marty is director of operations at West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and author of the book The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America from Seven Stories Press, which just made the book available as a free download for 48 hours.

Marty is available for a limited number of interviews.

She said today: “We aren’t exaggerating when we say that the legality of abortion is a moment-by-moment thing out here. …

“If we say that we’re here and willing to provide abortion, they’re ready to risk it. You can tell them it could put them in jail and they’re like, ‘OK, let’s go ahead and do this anyway,’” Marty said. “Because the alternative is continuing a pregnancy and giving birth when you don’t want to. There’s no end to the desperation of people who want to terminate a pregnancy.”

Media Shocked by the Leak, Not the Opinion

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JULIE HOLLAR, jhollar@fair.org@HollarJulie Hollar is senior analyst for the media watch group FAIR.

She just co-wrote the piece “Media Shocked by the Leak, Not the Opinion,” which states: “When Politico (5/2/22) published a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that would, if handed down by the Court, overturn Roe v. Wade and undermine the foundation for many privacy rights enjoyed by Americans today, it was a headline story across US news outlets. But in the flood of coverage, too many elite media outlets focused on the leak itself and treated the issue as a political football, rather than centering the real-world implications the opinion would have for everyday people.

“On NBC Nightly News (5/3/22), for instance, anchor Lester Holt turned first to Justice correspondent Pete Williams to explain what happened. Williams began by offering viewers his take: ‘While the publication of the draft is a shock, the conclusion of the draft shouldn’t be.’

“Though most court observers did expect the conservative super-majority to overturn Roe (CounterSpin, 9/15/21), Alito’s conclusion — that not only was Roe ‘egregiously wrong,’ but that ‘unenumerated rights’ to privacy or autonomy in general have no constitutional grounding — was, in fact, shocking to many of those who analyzed it (e.g., Slate, 5/2/22). And just because something is anticipated doesn’t mean it’s not still shocking.

“But with that framing, it was little surprise that the first expert Williams turned to for commentary, Tom Goldstein of SCOTUS Blog, spoke only of the gravity of the leak. (‘This has never happened in American history. And the Court may never be the same when it comes to the trust between the justices and all of their law clerks.’)”

Last year, Hollar wrote the piece “State Campaigns to Outlaw Abortion Barely Mentioned by Major Outlets.” She said today: “For more than four months last year, as the GOP furiously passed state-level abortion restrictions, big media barely took notice. The New York Times mentioned the campaign once in print. NBC News: zero times on the air.”

Former Negotiator on How the Ukraine War Should End

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JOHN QUIGLEY, quigley.2@osu.edu

Quigley was the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe expert on Crimea 1994-95. A specialist in international law, he is professor emeritus at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Quigley’s books include The Ruses for War: American Interventionism Since World War II.

He just wrote the piece “I led talks on Donbas and Crimea in the 90s. Here’s how the war should end” for Responsible Statecraft.

He said today: “Now, if Ukraine does anything even close to implementing the Minsk agreement, Russia could say that the aim of its invasion has been accomplished. Any potential deal could be sweetened for Russia if Ukraine were to show flexibility on the status of Crimea. Russia would likely find some relief if then the West backed off pressuring it to return Crimea to Ukraine. President Zelensky has already floated the possibility that the two sides could arrange a process of discussion about Crimea, a process that he said could last 15 years.

“For Ukraine, political reality comes into play. Ukraine is unlikely to get Crimea back, no matter how Russia’s war plays out. Ukrainians do not have the attachment that Russians have towards Crimea. A Crimea under Russia may be better for long-term stability.

“As for the Donbas, it would not be difficult for Ukraine to offer more autonomy than it has to date. The Russian military assault seems to have pushed many Russian speakers in the Donbas to embrace Ukraine. They may be less demanding on autonomy than before. A renewed Ukrainian commitment on autonomy could be framed by the Russian government as a victory.”

Quigley notes however that the Biden administration “has framed the conflict in apocalyptic terms as a battle between democracy and authoritarianism. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s claim that the West is viewing the conflict as a proxy war against Russia cannot be lightly dismissed. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has set a long-term aim of weakening Russia. It’s reasonable to question whether the U.S. goal is less to force Russia out of Ukraine than to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.”

Marking One Million Deaths 

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News outlets have begun to report 1 million Covid-19 deaths in the U.S., though experts say the number is most likely an undercount.

New analysis from the Institute for Policy Studies contrasts the nation’s shocking death toll with billionaire wealth gains during the pandemic; since March 2020, U.S. billionaires have seen their combined wealth rise over $1.7 trillion, a gain of more than 58 percent. Elon Musk alone has seen a wealth increase of $255 billion. 

CHUCK COLLINS and OMAR OCAMPO; contact Olivia Alperstein at olivia@ips-dc.org to schedule interviews.
    Collins and Ocampo are researchers at the Institute for Policy Studies, a nonprofit think tank.

Scientific Analysis Links Environmental Change and New Diseases

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New analysis published by Nature has confirmed a“link between global environmental change and disease emergence.” The researchers conclude that climate change will cause new diseases to emerge more frequently. They assert that because climate change and habitat destruction will likely drive species to aggregate in areas of high human population density, particularly in Asia and Africa, zoonotic spillover (the cross-species transmission of viruses that can lead to new epidemics and pandemic) will increase. The Covid-19 pandemic may have been sparked by just such spillover

Colin Carlson, a co-author of the study, said that “the moment to stop climate change from increasing viral transmission was 15 years ago. We’re in a world that’s 1.2 degrees warmer [than pre-industrial levels]… We have to prepare for more pandemics because of it.”

SARAH MYHRE, PhD, sarah@glaserprogress.org 
    Myhre is a climate and ocean scientist and the Program Director for Climate Advocacy and Democracy Reform at the Glaser Progress Foundation. 

Myhre told the Institute for Public Accuracy that there are key lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic that can be applied to the climate crisis

Myhre said that disease emergence is an “important component of the public health impacts associated with climate change.” She added: “Just like physical phenomena of heat waves or smoke storms, biological and social problems like pandemics are not contained within the artifice of borders. Such questions are squarely in the paradigm of environmental justice, for both climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. Systemic problems unjustly impact those who are already the poorest and most vulnerable across the planet, degrading or destroying the relationship between people and the environment, and revealing the way that the past must be addressed and repaired.” 

At a time when the United States just surpassed 1 million Covid-19 deaths, Myhre noted: “There has [also] been an emotional experience that connects the pandemic and climate change, and that is horror. Horror at this scale of death and loss, and horror at the political normalization of death at this scale.” She said that lawmakers and public servants have proliferated “a narrative of mass death as an inevitable externality, as we see in the politicized leadership on the pandemic. They do not deserve, and are unqualified for, the role of public servant.”

Marcos Win in Philippines: Dynasties and Social Media Manipulation

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Ferdinand Marcos Jr., known as “Bongbong” Marcos, has won the Philippine presidency.

WALDEN BELLO, waldenbello@yahoo.com, @WaldenBello
Bello ran for vice president. He is chairperson of Laban ng Masa (LnM), “a Philippine national mass movement-based political center with a socialist direction.” He gained notoriety for his rallying cry: “FUCK YOU, MARCOS. THE BATTLE HAS JUST BEGUN” — see his statement, which went viral on Twitter. He was featured on John Oliver’s show.

RENATO REYES, nato.reyes@gmail.com, @natoreyes
Reyes is an activist in the Philippines. She blamed the result on a “failed political system, massive disinformation, vote-buying, red-tagging, political repression, and a non-transparent voting system. Marcos and Duterte benefited from a system that was rigged in their favor.”

JAMES BRADLEY, ‪[currently in New Zealand] james@jamesbradley.com, Skype: JamesOnSound
Bradley is author of several bestsellers focused on U.S. policy in the Pacific and Asia, including The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War.

He said today: “My talking to people in the Philippines makes it evident that Marcos poured tons of money into social media to secure this win.”

In 2020, Rappler (founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa) reported “Bongbong Marcos asked Cambridge Analytica to ‘rebrand’ [the] family image.” Rappler just published the piece “Marcos Jr. benefited from Facebook — study.”

Bradley continued: “I traveled through the Philippines while working on my book. One of the things that struck me was how the country was run by dynastic families who owned huge plantations.

“Now, ‘Bongbong’ Marcos has been elected president, the son of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos who stole an estimated $10 billion. Marcos still has most of the money his father stole. So, he poured tons of money into social media. A new image, a complete makeover of the Marcos era. They erased the past.”

In January, Rappler reported “Marcos Jr. continues to evade $353-million contempt judgment of U.S. court.”

Bradley added: “Marcos’ running mate is Sara Duterte, the daughter of current President Rodrigo Duterte. So these rich families work together. It’s all rock ‘n’ roll and celebrities and elites dining together.

“Marcos gave few interviews and refused to participate in debates, creating a virtual personality cult.

“If someone talked about torture during the time his father was president, it was immediately dismissed: ‘that’s propoganda!’

“There was no outline of policies. ‘The Marcos family was good for the country.’

“Marcos now will ‘lift up the people’ and they will have ‘unity.’

“Imelda Marcos can’t be a criminal — you can see the former beauty queen dancing on stage.”

Israeli Killing of Palestinian Journalist a “Calculated Act of Savagery”

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MOUIN RABBANI, [currently in Oman] mail@mouinrabbani.net, @mouinrabbani
Rabbani is co-editor of Jadaliyya.

He said today: “The only appropriate response to the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, which is not only a crime but a calculated act of savagery, is justice. Justice is only achievable through proper accountability. The Israeli occupier has repeatedly demonstrated that its priority is impunity, and it cannot be entrusted with either investigation, accountability, or justice for either Shireen or those whom it has deprived of their fundamental rights for more than half a century. But there will be no justice, only an impunity which set the stage for this murder and will set the stage for the next one.”

Rabbani has published and commented widely on Palestinian affairs, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the contemporary Middle East. He was previously senior analyst and special advisor on Israel-Palestine with the International Crisis Group, and head of political affairs with the Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria.

Background: “Al Jazeera’s iconic ‘Voice of Palestine’ killed during Israeli raid” from the Electronic Intifada.

Amazon Terminated Paid Sick Leave for Covid-19 After Union Vote

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Just one day after union voting ended at Amazon’s LDJ5 warehouse in Staten Island––the second Staten Island warehouse to hold a recent vote––the company announced it will end its nationwide Covid-19 paid sick leave policy, Common Dreams reported in early May. Employees who test positive for the virus will no longer get a week of paid time off.

Labor reporters and activists believe Amazon waited to make the announcement until after the vote. Just a few days later, Amazon fired several senior managers involved with the first unionized warehouse in the country. The New York Times has reported that some current and former employees saw the firings, “which occurred outside the company’s typical employee review cycle… as a response to the victory by the Amazon Labor Union.” 

EILEEN APPELBAUM, appelbaum@cepr.net , @EileenAppelbaum
    Appelbaum is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. 

Appelbaum told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “Amazon’s move on paid sick leave points out the importance of a national paid leave policy for employees. Many lack even one paid sick day, and even those that have paid sick days can have the rug pulled out from under them at the whim of their employers. The highly contagious nature of the Omicron variants means workers have an urgent need right now for paid time off if they get sick. At a minimum, Congress should reinstate the emergency paid sick days program for workers sick with Covid.” 

Ukraine: “Horrible Dangers” of a Proxy War; Nuclear War

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ANATOL LIEVEN, via Jessica Rosenblum, rosenblum@quincyinst.org, @lievenanatol
Available for a limited number of interviews, Lieven is senior research fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His books include The Baltic RevolutionsChechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power? and Ukraine and Russia.

His recent pieces include “The horrible dangers of pushing a U.S. proxy war in Ukraine.” He writes: “To judge by its latest statements, the Biden administration is increasingly committed to using the conflict in Ukraine to wage a proxy war against Russia, with as its goal the weakening or even destruction of the Russian state. This would mean America adopting a strategy that every U.S. president during the Cold War took great pains to avoid: the sponsorship of war in Europe, bringing with it the acute risk of escalation towards direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO, possibly ending in nuclear catastrophe.”

He also wrote: “Giving Ukraine intel on Russian generals is a risky gamble” which states: “A New York Times report that the United States has been providing real time intelligence to the Ukrainian army with the specific purpose of killing Russian generals brings America a long step closer to actual war with Russia. This also means a risk of nuclear war that is now greater than it has ever been, even perhaps during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Biden administration and the U.S. establishment need to ask themselves just one question: If the position were reversed, how would the United States react to a third country deliberately helping to kill U.S. commanders?”

Lieven’s other recent pieces include: “Reckless and ruthless? Yes. But is Putin insane? No” and, for Foreign Policy, “The Meaning of Ukraine’s Coming Neutrality.”

Facebook Lifting Ban on Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion “Stunning”

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LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin@gmail.com
Golinkin just wrote the piece “Meet the Head of Biden’s New ‘Disinformation Governing Board‘” for The Nation. He is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka. His writing on Russia and Ukraine has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and other outlets.

Golinkin writes: “Late last month, the Joe Biden administration publicly confirmed that a ‘Disinformation Governing Board’ working group had been created within the Department of Homeland Security. The news prompted a flood of concern about the impact of such an Orwellian organ on America.

“But there’s no need to engage in hypotheticals to understand the dangers. One has to only consider the past of Nina Jankowicz, the head of the new disinformation board.

“Jankowicz’s experience as a disinformation warrior includes her work with StopFake, a U.S. government-funded ‘anti-disinformation’ organization founded in March 2014 and lauded as a model of how to combat Kremlin lies. Four years later, StopFake began aggressively whitewashing two Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups with a long track record of violence, including war crimes. …

“StopFake has also continued defending the Azov Battalion. Last month, StopFake tweeted that the unit — which was formed out of a neo-Nazi gang, uses two neo-Nazi symbols on its insignia, and has been documented as neo-Nazi by numerous Western outlets — ‘doesn’t profess #Nazi views as official ideology,’ labeling stories about Azov and neo-Nazism as fake news.

“This is particularly disturbing because in February, Facebook reversed its ban on praising Azov. Facebook had previously banned the Azov battalion’s account as well as posts celebrating the neo-Nazi organization. The reversal is stunning, given the platform’s professed commitment to combating far-right extremism.

“It’s unclear whether StopFake played a role in Facebook’s decision to lift its Azov ban, but considering StopFake is Facebook’s official fact-checking partner, it’s hard to believe the group’s track record of whitewashing Azov wasn’t a factor.

“The ‘grand wizards’ of battling fake news have even dabbled with Holocaust distortion, downplaying WWII-era paramilitaries who slaughtered Jews as mere ‘historic figures’ and Ukrainian nationalist leaders, while attacking members of the U.S. Congress who had denounced Ukraine’s glorification of Nazi collaborators.

“Astonishingly, when Jankowicz herself was quoted in a July 2020 New York Times story about StopFake’s going off the rails, the article failed to disclose the fact that the disinformation expert being quoted used to work with the group.

“Painting neo-Nazi paramilitaries with an extensive record of war crimes as patriots helping refugees, all while working with a ‘disinformation’ group that turned out to run interference for violent neo-Nazi formations — that’s the experience Biden’s new disinformation czar brings to the table.”

Crisis in Science Labs: The Supply Chain Spiral

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Scientific equipment suppliers write that supply chain disruptions continue into this stage of the pandemic, and scientists and researchers are feeling the cumulative effects of these disruptions. Raw material shortages, the impacts of inflation, shipping costs, logistical and shipping delays, and more have all affected their ability to complete lab work. This research is also paramount, as much of it involves developing new Covid-19 vaccines as variants emerge and ensuring that scientists continue to work on vaccines for other potentially emergent diseases. 

LEE RILEY, lwriley@berkeley.edu
    Riley is a professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at the University of California, Berkeley. 

In a recent interview, Riley noted that he has been “stressed by the supply chain impacts the pandemic has imposed. It now takes many months just to obtain simple things we need for research.”

Riley told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “My lab uses a lot of molecular microbiology research supplies, such as those used for PCR, which are the same types of reagents used for Covid-19 tests. So we were competing with large Covid-19 testing companies for these same supplies. A lot of the chemicals and plasticware (e.g. pipette tips, microcentrifuge tubes, etc.) used for these tests are produced in countries like China, which had to cut back their production during the height of the pandemic. China itself had to use these supplies for their own Covid-19 testing and control efforts––for 1.4 billion people!

“I had several visiting researchers from abroad at the beginning of the pandemic, who could not perform their experiments, first because of the lockdown, and then because of the backlog of the supplies we needed. The lack of supplies for prolonged periods may also have caused delay in our PhD students to complete their dissertation.

“Since priority was given to Covid-19 for developing tests, vaccines, and drugs, a lot of the reagents and supplies needed for diagnostic tests, drug manufacturing, and vaccine research for other diseases may have been diverted to the Covid-19-related work.”

Riley shed light on the disparate effects of shortages across the globe. “In talking to my collaborators in places like Brazil,” he said, “these issues were even worse there. Their researchers were competing for the same supplies against those in places like the U.S. and Western Europe, as well as China.” 

Riley notes that supply chain problems are beginning to ease, especially with the decrease in testing, but “if the pandemic returns with a vengeance similar to what we saw during the last peak [in the U.S. in December and January], we will run into the same problem.”

This warning comes just as a senior Biden administration official projected that the U.S. could see 100 million Covid-19 infections “and a potentially significant wave of deaths this fall and winter.”

Supply chain issues are a major factor for vaccine inequity worldwide in addition to delays in new research. The World Economic Forum also notes that many countries lack critical infrastructure to receive, maintain, and distribute vaccines. Some African countries, for instance, have suffered from logistical issues and a lack of cold chains (the low temperature-controlled supply chains necessary for some vaccine storage). These problems have combined to worsen Covid-19 vaccine inequity. COVAX, the global vaccine initiative that was created to respond to this challenge, has been criticized for being slow and missing initial inoculation target numbers

Congress Goes All in With War

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The Senate could vote on a $40 billion Ukraine aid package as soon as Wednesday.

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com@davidcnswanson
Executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org, Swanson said today: “The pretense that there are ten (or even one) members of Congress who can be relied on to oppose warmaking is dead. War opposition in the public theater of Congress is purely for show.”

Swanson charged: “Members of one of the two parties may pretend to oppose a war when the other party sits on the throne in the White House. But they’re doing electoral campaigning, not governing, not trying to actually end a war. The only time the War Powers Resolution has ever been used to the extent of passing a vote was to pretend to end U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen when Trump had promised a veto. Since Trump left, the members of Congress who talked up the moral need to act urgently have not lifted a finger.

“They even delayed a new pretense of trying to end the war on Yemen in deference to the importance of escalating a war on Ukraine. While $30 billion per year according to the UN could end starvation on Earth, Congress just dumped $40 billion into war escalation, providing weapons that will kill large numbers of people but not nearly as many as will starve this year — including as a result of the loss of crops in Ukraine. A handful of token antiwar Representatives in the House claimed in recent years that they were creating a caucus to reduce military spending. It has no website. It’s issued not a single statement. And not a single member of the House made the slightest public effort to move colleagues against the last military spending bill, not even going so far as to announce that they would vote no. Candidates now winning primaries with antiwar platforms can be expected to fall in line almost immediately. Just ask Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” All those Representatives voted for the Ukraine war spending bill.

Last week, CBS News reported in “Rand Paul stalls Senate passage of $40 billion in Ukraine aid” that: “Paul, a libertarian who often opposes U.S. intervention abroad, said he wanted language inserted into the bill, without a vote, that would have an inspector general scrutinize the new spending.”

In Upcoming Summit, Latin America Calling out U.S. Double Standards

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NPR reports Thursday: “U.S. adviser tries to talk Mexican president out of skipping Summit of the Americas.”

GUILLAUME LONG, via Dan Beeton, beeton@cepr.net, @ceprdc
Long is senior policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.

In a forthcoming article, he writes: “So far, the Ninth Summit of the Americas, to be held in Los Angeles from the 6th to the 10th of June, is not going according to plan. It is certainly not promising to be the celebration of U.S. leadership in the western hemisphere that the Biden administration wanted.

“This is because many Latin American and Caribbean governments are unhappy with the U.S. government’s decision to exclude Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from the summit. The countries of the hemisphere have grown accustomed to U.S. double standards when the arguments of democracy and human rights are flaunted. Who can forget that the United States managed to have Cuba expelled from the Organization of American States (OAS), but never batted an eyelid with the memberships of Chile under Pinochet, Argentina under Videla, or Guatemala under Rios Montt, to name but a few murderous governments?

“And this logic of politicizing democracy and human rights has not fundamentally evolved since. Haiti, with elections postponed since 2021 and a government without democratic legitimacy which faces very serious accusations, has not been blacklisted from the Americas Summit. Nor, of course, has Colombia, one of the United States’ closest allies, despite its historical and ongoing abysmal human rights record.”

Long held several cabinet positions in the government of Ecuador, including minister of foreign affairs.

Biden in Asia: * Threat of War with China * Need to End Korean War

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JAMES BRADLEY, james@jamesbradley.com
Bradley is author of several bestsellers focused on U.S. policy in the Pacific and Asia, including The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War. He is perhaps most well known for Flags of Our Fathers.

He now lives in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, and has produced numerous episodes of the “Untold Pacific” podcast about “the American experience in Asia.” Past episodes include “China Rising,” “The #1 Focus of the U.S. National Security State is War with China” and “U.S. Military: ‘War with China Inevitable.’”

CHRISTINE AHN, via Kathleen Richards, kathleen@womencrossdmz.org@christineahn
Ahn is executive director of Women Cross DMZ. She has written a forthcoming piece on Biden’s trip and said today: “Biden must use his trip to South Korea to take the lead on diplomacy with North Korea by abandoning failed approaches of sanctions and pressure and instead focusing on building trust and reducing tensions. Most important would be officially ending the Korean War with a peace agreement, which would address North Korea’s security concerns and cited justification for its nuclear weapons program. It would also provide the foundation to achieve U.S. goals such as denuclearization and improved human rights. Biden should prioritize diplomacy now to prevent a catastrophic conflict in Northeast Asia.”

Bereavement Activists Push for Support of Covid-19 Orphans

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Media outlets are increasingly focusing on the plight of children across the U.S. who have been orphaned by the Covid-19 pandemic. But advocates for the bereaved and pediatricians say that too little has been done to materially and emotionally support this growing group of young people, who still have “no return to normal.” An updated modeling study in The Lancet showed that the number of children globally affected by Covid-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver death increased from 2.7 million in April 2021 to “a devastating 5.2 million in October 2021,” just six months later.

In the United States, as of April, no law or executive order has provided any resources specifically for pandemic orphans. The Atlantic noted at that time that a memorandum from the Biden administration had not outlined a plan or commitment. Various opinion pieces in major outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post, have called for changes––but so far, the public has seen little policy movement.

CHARLES NELSON, MD, charles_nelson@harvard.edu
    Nelson is a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.  

BRENNAN WOOD, brennan@dougy.org
    Wood is the executive director of Dougy Center, a nonprofit that supports children and families who are grieving before and after a death. 

Nelson told the Institute for Public Accuracy that “within the U.S., the disparities we see with morbidity/mortality in Covid-19 generalizes to what we see with Covid orphans: Orphanhood has disproportionately impacted children of color, and, regionally, children in the South and Southwest of the U.S.”

The loss of a parent can have myriad effects on a child. As the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nora D. Volkow, put it in July 2021 in a press release on Covid-19-related parent loss, “the death of a parental figure is an enormous loss that can reshape a child’s life. We must work to ensure that all children have access to evidence-based prevention interventions that can help them navigate this trauma, to support their future mental health and wellbeing.” 

When asked what the safety net should look like for bereaved children, Nelson noted that he would push for a “surveillance system [enacted] that would allow us to identify children who have lost a parent/caregiver; a rapid response team that can provide mental health services to such children; and a long-term monitoring system that allows us to follow these children over time.”

Meanwhile, Wood told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “According to the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (Judi’s House), 1 in 13 children in the United States will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18. This number will likely increase as the statistics of the over 200,000 children in the U.S. who have had a parent die of Covid-19 become a part of the model. Childhood bereavement is a critical issue and should be an increasingly important public health priority that is addressed through local, state, and national policies and funding.

“The statistics are tragic: over 200,000 children in the U.S. have had a parent die of Covid-19, and while the headlines and commentaries call out for assistance for these youth, so far, no federal funds have been allocated. Local and federal policies should address this as a public health crisis for these children and their families, and a network of existing support organizations across the country is already helping––over 500 member agencies of the National Alliance for Children’s Grief.

“Never in our lifetimes has grief been so public in the media, yet so privately complex. A common misconception about grief is that it’s an individual emotional experience with predictable states and a defined timeline. It is time that we as a nation take a stand and acknowledge grief for what it truly is: a natural and normal response to loss that is interwoven into a sociocultural context. Grief is not an experience that needs to be ‘silenced,’ ‘treated,’ or ‘pathologized.’ Grief, and all the many complications it imposes on the griever, is an experience that needs and deserves understanding, support, and community.”

Joyal Mulheron, the founder of Evermore, notes that that while Covid orphans must be supported, leaders must not create “new systems of discrimination” against children who lose a parent to other kinds of death. Evermore is an emerging movement of concerned citizens who believe bereavement care in the U.S. is broken and that U.S. public leaders must take urgent action to address and support bereaved families. Mulheron told IPA: “With concurrent mortality epidemics from COVID-19, suicide, overdose, homicide and maternal mortality touching most families in America, it’s imperative that our nation supports a healthy and prosperous future for all bereaved and orphaned children. If we go about creating a singular national response for children who lost a parent to Covid-19 alone, we are creating new systems of inequity for the children whose parents have died from homicide or overdose, for example.”

Epidemiologist: “‘No doubt” the U.S. in middle of new Covid surge”

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Just weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention transitioned to a new system for Covid tracking and reporting by “community levels,” federal health officials are warning that one-third of Americans live in areas with a “high” level of risk. Though mask mandates have been dropped across the country, officials are urging the public to wear masks indoors. CDC director Rochelle Walensky said that data show the seven-day average of hospital admissions rose about 20 percent in the last week. The news was shared at the White House’s first Covid press briefing in six weeks. 

KATELYN JETELINA, MPH, PhD, info@yourlocalepidemiologist.com 
    Jetelina is an assistant professor of epidemiology and the author of the popular Substack newsletter on Covid-19, “Your Local Epidemiologist.” 

Last week, Jetelina wrote that the U.S. is “clearly in an infectious surge right now.” Jetelina plotted case estimates against reported case numbers, showing that the current surge reflects case numbers higher than the first two waves in 2020. Jetelina also notes that the current transmission rates (higher than 50 reported cases per 100,000 people) across 66 percent of counties correspond to “substantial” or “high” rates of transmission, despite falling in counties in which the CDC does not mandate masks.

Jetelina told the Institute for Public Accuracy on May 20 that it is currently “incredibly difficult to accurately estimate [true numbers of Covid-19 cases] in the U.S., but the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has been estimating prevalence throughout the pandemic.” Jetelina used those numbers to plot the graph below. 

Jetelina says that official reported cases are much lower than true numbers because of a “combination of three factors. First, more and more people are utilizing antigen testing (which is great!), but we don’t have a systematic process in place in the U.S.” to track the results of those tests. “Second, because of increased vaccine and infection-induced immunity, disease is, on average, less severe. The rate of asymptomatic or mild infection increases and people may just not know they are positive, so are not testing. (Or just don’t care to test). Third, we have removed incentives for people to get tested. For example, in March, providers were no longer able to submit claims for tests for uninsured patients and testing disparities followed,” as reported by the Institute for Public Accuracy here

Jetelina says that there is “no doubt we are in the middle of a case surge in the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s not getting communicated properly.” Officials need to “communicate with communities when transmission is high in an area so they can protect themselves. We also really need to strengthen our surveillance systems. One great way to do that is through random community prevalence testing.” Jetelina also recommends wastewater surveillance. 

BA2.12.1 is the third Omicron variant to cause a Covid-19 surge in the U.S., and may cause more reinfection than previous variants, as it has reduced cross-immunity. 

The virus’s proven ability to rapidly evolve to escape immune defenses may indicate that officials should take a different tact on vaccination: Rather than focusing on vaccines that prevent serious illness but still allow infected people to transmit the virus (such as the ones currently administered in the U.S.), the approach could pivot to focus on oral or nasal vaccines that stop an infection in its tracks and do not allow it to replicate in the nasal cavity.  Without them, experts such as Eric Topol write we may not have any “pandemic exit.”

Figure created by Katelyn Jetelina/YLE using reported case data from CDC here. “True” estimates for under-reporting from here.

Biden on Taiwan: “A Casus Belli”

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Bloomberg reports Monday morning: “Biden Misspeaks on Taiwan, Says U.S. Military Would Intervene.”

CHAS FREEMAN, cwfresidence@gmail.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Freeman is a noted former U.S. diplomat and a businessman who chairs Projects International, Inc. He was assistant secretary of defense for International Security Affairs from 1993-94. He was the principal U.S. interpreter during Nixon’s landmark trip to China in 1972.

He said today: “This is the fourth time in a year that the White House has had to walk back a pledge by President Biden to go to war with China over Taiwan that is inconsistent with both the terms of U.S.-China normalization and the Taiwan Relations Act. As a result, the United States now has no credibility at all in Beijing. After managing the Taiwan issue successfully for fifty years without war, Washington has lost the ability to do so. No one, least of all people in Taiwan, should be anything but alarmed by this. It is worse than a gaffe; it is a casus belli. The likely Chinese response will take the form of deeds, not words.”

See accuracy.org news release from Saturday: “Biden in Asia: * Threat of War with China * Need to End Korean War.”

Ukraine War: Why We Need a Real Debate

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KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, kat@thenation.com@KatrinaNation

Publisher and editorial director of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel just wrote the piece “We need a real debate about the Ukraine war” for the Washington Post.

She writes: “It’s time to challenge the orthodox view on the war in Ukraine. As Russia’s illegal and brutal assault enters its fourth month, the impact on Europe, the Global South and the world is already profound. …

“Furthermore, the more protracted the war in Ukraine, the greater the risk of a nuclear accident or incident. And with the Biden administration’s strategy to ‘weaken’ Russia with the scale of weapons shipments, including anti-ship missiles, and revelations of U.S. intelligence assistance to Ukraine, it is clear that the United States and NATO are in a proxy war with Russia. …

“Shouldn’t the ramifications, perils and multifaceted costs of this proxy war be a central topic of media coverage — as well as informed analysis, discussion and debate? Yet what we have in the media and political establishment is, for the most part, a one-sided, even nonexistent, public discussion and debate. It’s as if we live with what journalist Matt Taibbi has dubbed an ‘intellectual no-fly zone.’ Those who have departed from the orthodox line on Ukraine are regularly excluded from or marginalized — certainly rarely seen — on big corporate media. The result is that alternative and countervailing views and voices seem nonexistent. Wouldn’t it be healthy to have more diversity of views, history and context rather than ‘confirmation bias’? …

“Why are nonconformists smeared for noting, even bolstered with reputable facts and history, the role of nationalist, far-right and, yes, neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine? Fascist or neo-Nazi revivalism is a toxic factor in many countries today, from European nations to the United States. Why is Ukraine’s history too often ignored, even denied? Meanwhile, as a former Marine Corps general noted, ‘War is a racket.’ U.S. weapons conglomerates are lining up to feed at the trough. Before the war ends, many Ukrainians and Russians will die while Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman make fortunes. At the same time, network and cable news is replete with pundits and ‘experts’ — or more accurately, military officials turned consultants — whose current jobs and clients are not disclosed to viewers.”

The Davos Problem: “It is time to #TaxTheRich”

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File:World Economic Forum logo.svg - Wikimedia CommonsJENNY RICKS, via Asha Tharoor, asha@ashatharoor.com, @jenny_ricks
Ricks is the global convenor of Fight Inequality Alliance. She just wrote a piece on Davos for Al Jazeera.

She writes: “Policy choices made by governments and international institutions throughout the pandemic have fallen woefully short of protecting people from the impact of multiple crises. Spiralling inflation, sky-rocketing energy bills and fuel prices, as well as high and still rising food prices, spelled disaster for so many. But the richest few, who continued to increase their wealth in the past two years, are still benefiting from the crisis. As a result, questions are being raised on the morality of an economic system that has failed to help the masses and instead supercharged inequality during a global health emergency. …

“In the UK, where soaring energy bills forced many families to choose between heating their homes and eating, for example, the government is resisting calls for a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies. It is clear that the British public would rather have their leaders tax the companies benefitting from the growing cost of living crisis than waste time discussing inequality and sustainability with CEOs actively deepening that inequality in Switzerland. …

“In Zambia, for example, President Hakainde Hichilema is finding an increasingly frustrated citizenry asking who benefits from his economic policies, such as his recent move to lower the corporate taxation rate from 35 percent to 30 percent.

“Zambians are asking: In a mineral-rich country with huge copper reserves selling at record prices, why are the vast majority of people still living in crushing poverty? Why are we expected to bear the pain of increasing food and fuel prices? Why are the details of an upcoming IMF loan agreement, expected to usher in more devastating austerity, being kept hidden from us? …

“The people have no patience for the speeches or meaningless policy proposals that will be produced in Davos this week. This is why people around the world, from Kenya and South Africa to Switzerland and the UK, will once again be taking to the streets to send a singular message to their leaders at Davos: It is time to #TaxTheRich.”

Assessing Vaccine Authorization for Children Under 5

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Pfizer and BioNTech have completed their submission for emergency use authorization (EUA) of a Covid-19 vaccine for children under 5, after results found that a third dose increased its efficacy. The Food and Drug Administration quickly set a June date for the meeting to review EUA requests for both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for this age group. 

Some parents have eagerly awaited vaccines for this age group. But experts warn that even amidst the current Omicron surge, vaccination rates in young children may be quite low: children 5-11 have low Covid-19 vaccination rates compared to the rest of the population. For working parents, taking time off to bring their child to be vaccinated––and then potentially care for them in the event that the child develops vaccine-induced symptoms––may discourage parents from vaccinating their children. For others, vaccine hesitancy and beliefs in vaccine misinformation can also play a large role in the decision.

TARA SMITH, tsmit176@kent.edu, @aetiology
    Dr. Smith is a professor of epidemiology at the College of Public Health at Kent State University. 

DAN ROMER and KENNETH WINNEG, email michael.rozansky@appc.upenn.edu to schedule interviews. 
    Romer is the research director, and Winneg is the managing director of survey research, at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). 

The Annenberg Science Knowledge Survey, published in January 2022 in the fifth wave of the survey since April 2021, found a significant association between beliefs in vaccination misinformation and the reduced likelihood that an adult would recommend vaccinating a 5-to 11-year-old. A spokesperson for the Annenberg Public Policy Center told the Institute for Public Accuracy that researchers found that “a high level of belief in statements that vaccinations are harmful is significantly associated with a lower likelihood to recommend the Covid-19 vaccine for those ages 5 to 11.” Adults who are unboosted were also less likely (than those who are vaccinated and boosted) to recommend vaccinating a 5- to 11-year-old and are more likely to believe misinformation about vaccine safety.

Though the survey did not ask about children under the age of 5 because a vaccine was not available at the time, the spokesperson also noted that “one can certainly be concerned that similar sources of hesitancy will affect willingness to vaccinate this [younger] age group.” 

At the time of the survey’s release, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of APPC, said that “long-lived misconceptions about vaccination are causing some vaccinated but not boosted adults to express reservations about vaccinating 5-to-11-year-olds against Covid-19… As the public health community works to increase community vaccination levels, reaching these adults with corrective content delivered by trusted individuals should be a priority.”

Dr. Smith told IPA today: “What I’m most concerned about is the idea that children don’t need the vaccine, which has been promoted both by anti-vaccine groups as well as somewhat by more ‘reputable’ individuals with large media followings. The idea is that because children don’t generally experience serious illness at a high rate, and many have been infected already, vaccination won’t help them. However, we know that as many as a quarter of children are still immunologically naive to [the virus], and even for children who have experienced infection, immunity appears to wane quickly and so they may no longer be protected. I hope parents will discuss the Covid vaccine with their trusted pediatrician or other healthcare provider when it becomes available for those under the age of 5.”

Power of the NRA: Mass Organization, JROTC

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Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second AmendmentROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ, rdunbaro@pacbell.net, @rdunbaro

Dunbar-Ortiz is author of the book Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment

She said today: “The U.S. is unique in the industrialized world for the number of guns legally in civilian hands, although only a third of the population owns even one firearm. The average gun owner owns nine firearms. The NRA is not just a lobby, it is a mass organization with chapters in every state that are autonomous and have the power to negate election candidates who support gun control. Junior ROTC exists in nearly all middle and high schools, and the NRA furnishes free targets, firearms, and training. Nikolas Cruz, the shooter who killed 17 high school students in Parkland Florida in 2018 was an expelled student from the school and had been an avid member of the JROTC chapter in the school that practiced in the school gym. He was wearing his JROTC shirt when he carried out the shooting.”

See her pieces “Inside the minds of American mass shooters” for the British Guardian and “Settler Colonialism and the Second Amendment” for Monthly Review. Also, see a book talk carried by C-SPAN.

Her other books include An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States and, most recently, Not ‘A Nation of Immigrants’: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion.”

Apologist for Tucker Carlson’s Racism: Glenn Greenwald

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EOIN HIGGINS, eoinhiggins@gmail.com, @EoinHiggins
Higgins is a journalist who wrote the new piece “Why Is Glenn Greenwald Defending Tucker Carlson and the ‘Great Replacement’?” for Salon. Reporting for the article was funded by a grant from the ExposeFacts program of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

“There’s no plausible way to dispute that Fox News host Tucker Carlson is spreading racist conspiracy theories, but Glenn Greenwald has been trying anyway,” Higgins wrote.

The article noted that Greenwald has become “a stalwart defender of Fox, and Carlson in particular. As Carlson has gained in viewership and impact — he’s the most widely watched cable news host in the U.S. — his commentary and political positions have come under increased scrutiny. With that attention has come intense criticism. But he has Greenwald in his corner, who has let forth a flood of pro-Carlson arguments, primarily delivered on Twitter, his medium of choice.”

Higgins wrote: “Shortly before the May 14 massacre in Buffalo that left 10 dead, the alleged shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, published a 180-page manifesto online. The post explained that he targeted the Tops Market grocery store because the neighborhood was majority Black, in an act of political violence aimed at striking fear into nonwhite U.S. residents. Gendron’s ideological outlook was highly influenced by the racist conspiracy theory known as the ‘Great Replacement’ which holds that whites in the U.S. are being systematically replaced by people of color in a demographic change that’s being masterminded by a cabal of elites.

“That demographic-threat conspiracy theory has been laundered in prime time by none other than Carlson. Using his perch atop cable news rankings, the Fox News host has worked to spread the message of demographic threat far and wide amongst conservatives. Gendron’s manifesto doesn’t mention Carlson specifically, a point seized on by Greenwald to explain away the connections between the messaging from his favorite cable news host and the shooter. But the ideological throughline is hard to miss. …

“Greenwald has been a Fox News partisan for some time, in near-perfect correlation to how often he’s invited on the network. Carlson has hosted Greenwald frequently, while gaining his unswerving loyalty. What this loyalty has meant in real terms is relentless pro-Carlson arguments from Greenwald. …

“It’s no longer enough to run interference for the Fox host — now, while expressing solidarity with Carlson, Greenwald repeats the same talking points on crime statistics and replacement theory that have been perfected in right-wing messaging. …

“While Greenwald formerly defended Carlson while distancing himself from the more extreme interpretations of the Fox host’s views, today he is increasingly deploying his Twitter platform in service of spreading the white nationalist message. These vehement defenses of the most influential media purveyor of the racist ‘replacement’ theory are destructive efforts to launder hate by a once-admirable journalist.”

Racist Origins of Policing and the Second Amendment

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Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second AmendmentROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ, rdunbaro@pacbell.net@rdunbaro
Dunbar-Ortiz is author of the book Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment
A chapter in her book is titled “Slave Patrols.” An excerpt was published by Truthout: “United States Policing and “Gun Rights” Began With Slave Patrols.”

She told IPA: “The U.S. is unique in the industrialized world for the number of guns legally in civilian hands, although only a third of the population owns even one firearm. The average gun owner owns nine firearms. The NRA is not just a lobby, it is a mass organization with chapters in every state that are autonomous and have the power to negate election candidates who support gun control. Junior ROTC exists in nearly all middle and high schools, and the NRA furnishes free targets, firearms, and training. Nikolas Cruz, the shooter who killed 17 high school students in Parkland Florida in 2018 was an expelled student from the school and had been an avid member of the JROTC chapter in the school that practiced in the school gym. He was wearing his JROTC shirt when he carried out the shooting.”
Uvalde High School has a JROTC program.

IPA executive director Norman Solomon just wrote the piece “‘Gun control’ is a great idea — and what about for the U.S. military too?” for Salon.
In These Times reports: “The Pentagon Is Protecting and Funding the Same Gun Makers Democrats Want to Regulate.”

The Intercept reports: “Uvalde Police Didn’t Move to Save Lives Because That’s Not What Police Do.” In 2005, the New York Times reported: “The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm.”
See Dunbar-Ortiz pieces “Inside the minds of American mass shooters” for the British Guardian and “Settler Colonialism and the Second Amendment” for Monthly Review. Her other books include An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States and, most recently, Not ‘A Nation of Immigrants’: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion.

Assessing Threat of Inflation and Slowing Wage Growth

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The monthly Employment Situation is scheduled for release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, June 3 at 8:30 a.m. ET.

DEAN BAKER, via Karen Conner, conner@cepr.net, @ceprDC
Baker is senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He just wrote “Preview: Lower Unemployment with Moderating Wage Growth.”

Baker also just wrote “CBO Joins Team Transitory” which states: “Inflation is persisting at rates far higher than most of us consider acceptable. The future path continues to be the focus of the debate on economic prospects. On one side, many of us continue to believe inflation is a temporary phenomenon caused by the reopening from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. On the other side are those who see inflation spiraling upward to more dangerous levels, with a severe recession the only factor that can stop it.

“In its latest report on the budget and the economy, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) sided clearly with those arguing the case for inflation being temporary. The report projected that inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, would fall to 2.7 percent next year and 2.3 percent in 2024. That is somewhat higher than in the pre-pandemic period, but certainly not spiraling inflation.”

Protesters Block Major Weapons Bazaar

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Anti-war activists protest outside of CANSEC, North America's largest weapons fair, in Ottawa on June 1, 2022.

CommonDreams reports in “‘Shut Down This War Machine’: Peace Activists Block Entrances to Major Weapons Fair in Canada” that “More than a hundred anti-war campaigners traveled to Ottawa on Wednesday to protest outside of the E.Y. Center, where they obstructed access to the opening of CANSEC, North America’s largest weapons and ‘defense industry’ convention.

“Carrying 40-foot banners with messages such as ‘Blood On Your Hands,’ ‘Stop Profiting From War,’ and ‘Arms Dealers Not Welcome,’ peace activists blocked multiple driveways and pedestrian entrances as attendees attempted to register for and enter the meeting just before Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand’s scheduled opening keynote address.”

RACHEL SMALL, canada@worldbeyondwar.org@WBWCanada
Small is an organizer with World Beyond War and has been a lead person in the protests. She said: “The same conflicts around the world which have brought misery to millions have brought record profits to arms manufacturers this year. These war profiteers have blood on their hands and we are making it impossible for anyone to attend their weapons fair without directly confronting the violence and bloodshed they are complicit in.” The group highlighted the conflict in Ukraine and the Saudi war in Yemen, which is estimated to have killed approximately 400,000 people.

The group noted that “Lockheed Martin, one of the major sponsors of CANSEC, has seen their stocks soar nearly 25 percent since the start of the new year, while Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman each saw their stock prices rise by around 12 percent.”CommonDreams reports: “With ‘renewed great power competition’ comes windfall profits, Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet told investors at the beginning of the year. At the same time, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes — whose annual compensation package reached $23 million in 2021, up 11 percent from the previous year — told shareholders that ‘we’re going to see some benefit from’ increased ‘opportunities for international sales.'”

Insurers Collected Full Premiums But Paid Less for Care During the Pandemic

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A recent opinion article published by MedPage Today points out that in 2020, private insurer profits––largely from Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care––jumped 20-30%. At the time, private insurers were collecting full premiums even as claims from health care providers fell due to decreases in elective care. Meanwhile, the government was bailing out providers by compensating them for revenue shortfalls. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler write that “taxpayers paid two-fold for the care dip” during that time. 

DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, MD and STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, MD, MPH, himmelhandler@comcast.net
    Himmelstein and Woolhandler are both professors in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College.

Himmelstein and Woolhandler describe how federal officials set 2020 payment rates to Medicare Advantage plans, boosting payments by nearly $49 billion, as they anticipated the usual annual increases in medical care use and costs. After decreases in doctor visits and cancellations of elective surgeries, Medicare Advantage plans simply pocketed the increases, leading to “insurers’ windfalls.” Simultaneously, the pandemic led to financial shortfalls for hospitals and doctors; private insurers’ payments to hospitals actually fell in 2020. But the Provider Relief Fund and the Paycheck Protection Program then helped bailed out hospitals and health professionals with around $165 billion. 

“In essence,” write Himmelstein and Woolhandler, “government paid twice for care: once through premiums paid to private insurers for Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care, and a second time to fill the hole in hospitals’ and doctors’ budgets caused by falling reimbursements from private insurers.”

This dynamic shows no signs of slowing down soon. For Health Justice Monitor, Himmelstein and Woolhandler commented that “while insurers’ profiteering from taxpayers in 2020 was extreme, Medicare Advantage plans have been fleecing the taxpayers for years, and look set to continue doing so. Indeed, the Biden Administration recently granted them a huge payment increase for 2023.” 

Fed’s Fix is Wrong: Inflation Caused by “Skyrocketing” Corporate Profits More Than Wages

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PIA MALANEY, pmalaney@ineteconomics.org, @piamalaney

Malaney is senior economist at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. She said today: “As the White House and Jerome Powell met this week to discuss the highest inflation in decades, the Fed Chair has been explicit about the Fed’s monetary policy goals: ‘to get wages down and then get inflation down.’ The labor market has indeed been tight, with wages rising at the highest pace in years, especially at the lower end of the wage distribution. But is this the major driving force of rising inflation?

“Work by Servaas Storm for the Institute for New Economic Thinking and other analysts suggest that very little of the rise in inflation can be traced to wages. As most Americans know from their own experience, wages are running well behind inflation and have been for many months. What is skyrocketing is corporate profits. As numerous studies indicate, economic concentration in the U.S. has increased oligopoly power in several industries, allowing corporations to raise prices and profits. The latest flap about baby food is a perfect example. The industry is highly concentrated.
“The plain fact is that import prices from supply shortages and other problems explain a great deal of the rise in American prices. But that is hardly responsive to Fed interest rate rises. And anyway interest rates are, at best, a blunt tool: empirical evidence has shown that historically it requires very large increases in interest rates to bring down inflation even by small percentages, with enormous costs to employment and growth.”

A Dearth of Covid Storytelling

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This past month the United States surpassed one million Covid-19 deaths––hundreds of thousands more deaths than public health officials ever predicted at the start of the pandemic in 2020. Yet it has been commonly easy for Americans unaffected by Covid-19 death and disability to turn away from those realities. 

Debra Caplan, a theater historian, notes that early on in the pandemic, writers addressed “how the 1918 flu disappeared from our collective memory and the historical record.” Although the pandemic killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide, it eventually became what the historian Alfred Crosby called “America’s forgotten pandemic.” Crosby’s 1989 book is a “cautionary tale,” writes Caplan, “of what happens when people decide to return to ‘normalcy’ before a public health crisis is over.” 

DEBRA CAPLAN, debra.caplan36@login.cuny.edu, @debra_caplan
    Caplan is an associate professor of theater at Baruch College, CUNY.

Caplan writes that “we are witnessing a similar thing happen in real time.” Though literature routinely addressed plagues and sickness prior to the 1918 flu, there is an “almost-total absence of literature, film, or other storytelling” about it. With governments’ attention on war, “information about the pandemic was actively suppressed by most governments around the world.” She says that the pandemic made a near-complete disappearance from literary and cultural history. 

Caplan argues that we “urgently need to tell the story of what happened––and what’s still happening––in this pandemic. We need to publicly grieve the [one] million Americans we lost, and make plans to try to prevent any more casualties. We need to tell the stories of Long Haulers and survivors.”

Caplan told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that she is addressing “writers and artists, of course, but also the gatekeepers at magazines, newspapers, film and television studios, and publishing houses” in her call for pandemic-focused storytelling. Many writers have shared stories with Caplan about how magazines “are specifically asking that writers not submit work about the pandemic. That’s absurd––we need collective storytelling about this cataclysmic event to process what happened and figure out where to go next. Invite artists to write those stories and share them with the world.” 

Caplan notes that Twitter has actually become “a space where people are talking about the story of the pandemic in their lives and its costs. That’s where I’ve seen the most memorialization and storytelling.” 

Biden Trip to Saudi Arabia: “Blatant Hypocrisy”

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On Thursday afternoon, media outlets reported that Biden will be visiting Saudi Arabia this month.

AISHA JUMAAN, MD, aisha@yemenfoundation.org, @AishaJumaan.

Dr. Jumaan is president of the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation.    She said today: “The blatant hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy is very painful to watch. President Biden’s planned travel to meet Mohamed Bin Salaman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia, who should be tried for his war crimes in Yemen, contrasts with his stringent measures against Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. government has been helping MBS bomb and starve Yemen for over seven years; yet wants us to believe that they have the moral high ground.”

In April, Dr. Jumaan was featured in a piece in Forbes: “Time to End the Forgotten War in Yemen,” which noted: “The scenes of carnage in Ukraine have sparked anger and concerted action against the Russian invasion of that country, now in its eighth week. But there is another conflict, now in its eighth year, that has resulted in the deaths of nearly half a million people and driven millions more to the brink of starvation — the war in Yemen.” She was also featured on an IPA news release: “Will Congress Stop the Worst Humanitarian Crisis, the Saudi Attack on Yemen?

Mexican President Skipping Summit of the Americas

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Joe Biden con Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador | 5 de marzo de 20… | Flickr

CNN reports: “Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday he won’t be attending the Summit of the Americas, hosted later on this week by the United States, due to the exclusion of several countries in the region. Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were not invited to the summit because of the ‘lack of democratic space and the human rights situations’ in the countries, a senior Biden administration official said in a statement to CNN on Monday.” [See Friday IPA news release: “Biden Trip to Saudi Arabia: ‘Blatant Hypocrisy.’“]

GUILLAUME LONG, via Dan Beeton, beeton@cepr.net, (202) 239-1460, @ceprdc    Long is senior policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. He recently wrote the piece “Joe Biden Has Botched the Summit of the Americas” for Jacobin.

He said today: “The Latin American challenge to U.S. hegemony in the first decade and a half of the twenty-first century may not represent a mere distant relic of the past. The conservative cycle that has dominated Latin America over the last seven or so years appears to be ebbing, even before Lula’s likely presidential comeback in Brazil. Beyond the issue of who attends the Summit of the Americas and who doesn’t, the Biden administration may find that Latin America’s latest realignment with the United States is already on the wane.”

Long noted in his recent piece: “Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has led the charge, repeatedly saying, both in Mexico and during his recent visit to Cuba, that he will not attend the summit if certain countries are excluded. …

“The Argentine presidency of the CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which includes all the countries in the hemisphere except for the United States and Canada) has also called on the U.S. government to not exclude any country.”

Curing Long-Term Covid Infections Could Slow Viral Evolution

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As the United States finds itself in the midst of its second surge of 2022, public health experts are returning to a longtime question of the pandemic: When will––or will––it end?

BILL HANAGE, PhD, contact nrura@hsph.harvard.edu to schedule interviews
    Hanage is an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University.

JOHN DENNEHY, PhD, john.dennehy@qc.cuny.edu, @DrJDennehy 
    Dennehy is a professor of biology and deputy executive officer of the Biology PhD Program at Queens College and The Graduate Center of CUNY.

Dr. Hanage noted in an interview that “we’ve got to remember that [Covid] is something we’re going to be fighting with for a hell of a long time.” He told the Institute for Public Accuracy that we know that Covid is not currently endemic because we are still witnessing dynamics that are characteristic of a pandemic––including surges at any point of the year, unlike with other seasonal coronaviruses. 

In a new letter published May 21 in the Lancet, five scientists write that the pandemic has been characterized by waves of variants, and that “preliminary evidence suggests at least some have emerged from long-term [Covid] infections, such as those observed in immunocompromised patients [who can have difficulty eliminating Covid infections]. As a result,” the authors agree, “it is of the utmost urgency that those with long-term infections should be able to access quality health care and be prioriti[z]ed for curative therapy because a failure to properly manage these infections poses a risk to the individual and to public health.” 

In comparison with ordinary transmission chains, long-term infections may result in greater and more rapid viral evolution. Dr. Denney told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “In persistent infections, viruses continue to evolve over long periods of time without having to find a new susceptible host. Viruses within these hosts can continue to accumulate new mutations.”

Dr. Dennehy also said: “If we need to prioritize limited resources to prevent another major Covid wave, finding and curing Covid infections of immunocompromised patients should be a priority. There are multiple lines of evidence that previous variants of concern emerged from long-term, persistent infections of immunocompromised patients. It’s reasonable to expect that they could be a source of future variants of concern. Curing these infections not only helps these individuals, but also could protect us all if another major Covidwave is not avoided. 

“Scientists have developed several therapies for Covid, including monoclonal antibodies and Paxlovid. Efforts to develop new and improved therapies are continuing. This is especially important since there is considerable evidence that [the virus] is evolving resistance to current treatments [like Paxlovid].

“Combatting the pandemic is hampered by the fact that the virus can cross jurisdictional boundaries, but there are no agreed upon pandemic response standards, based on scientific evidence, evenly applied across the world. Ultimately it is up to local authorities to find and treat persistent Covid infections in their own jurisdictions. The more authorities are aware of these priorities and implementing them in their jurisdictions, the more successful we will be in limiting virus evolution globally.”

Ignoring U.S.-Backed Saudi War Against Yemen

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File:Bombed school, still working (8720067680).jpgAISHA JUMAAN, MD, aisha@yemenfoundation.org, @AishaJumaan
 Dr. Jumaan is president of the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation. She just co-wrote the piece “Corporate Media Fail to Cover War in Yemen Due to U.S. Support for Saudi Arabia.”     She writes: “News outlets in the United States give prime coverage to the war in Ukraine but mostly ignore the devastating war that the U.S. has supported since March 2015 between a Saudi-led coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Houthis in Yemen. As a result, most of the U.S. public is unaware of the war’s catastrophic impact on the Yemeni population: according to the United Nations, around 400,000 people have died and 16.2 million are at the brink of starvation.    “The causes of this devastation include a Saudi-led bombing campaign that targets infrastructure, food sources and health services, as well as coercive measures, including a blockade, directed at destroying Yemen’s economy. The UN has called the situation in Yemen the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”    “Recently, the Houthis have retaliated against the Saudi-led coalition by launching transborder attacks into Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Most of those attacks have been deflected with the help of U.S. weapons. The Saudi/UAE airstrikes, missile attacks and strangling blockades regularly overwhelm the relatively ineffective weapons and military power of the Houthis. Yet, the U.S. media confer a disproportionate amount of media coverage and sympathy to Saudi/UAE aggression.

“What’s important to realize — and what the news media fail to discuss — is that the U.S. is complicit in causing this crisis. The U.S. is the main supplier of weapons to Saudi Arabia. According to the Brookings Institution, 73 percent of Saudi arms imports come from the U.S. In fact, 24 percent of U.S. weapons exports go to Saudi Arabia.”

Chile Sends in Army Against Indigenous Group

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The Summit of the Americas is taking place this week in Los Angeles. Buenos Aires Times reports: “Chile redeploys Army to restive southern region amid Mapuche tensions.” Telesur reports: “Chile: Lower House Declares Mapuche Organizations as Terrorists.”

CAROLE CONCHA BELL, conchabellis@gmail.com@chiledissidentCarole Concha Bell is an Anglo-Chilean writer and PhD student at King’s College London. She is a specialist on the Mapuche conflict and socio-political conflict in Latin America.

She just wrote the piece “Chile’s Identity Crisis: Mapuche Still Under Fire” for North American Congress on Latin America. She writes: “Days after Chile released the draft of the new constitution set to replace the one drafted in the dictatorship-era, President Gabriel Boric’s government declared a state of emergency in the so-called conflict zone in Araucanía. Indigenous Mapuche communities that have long resisted the dominance of extractivist multinational forestry companies in the region have increasingly laid claim to ancestral land, including with demands for autonomy. …

While Chile’s new president ran on promises to deal fairly with the indigenous group, Bell notes: “Yet, as Mapuche lawyer, human rights activist, and Constitutional Convention member Natividad Llanquilleo Pilquiman tweeted: ‘President Boric, like [ex-president Sebastián] Piñera, has sent the military against the Mapuche.’ …

“Following the announcement, human rights groups confused by Boric’s U-turn have demanded a coherent explanation. Various Mapuche media outlets echoed Llanquilleo’s dismay, with independent media outlet Werkén calling the measure a ‘failure’ of the Boric government. The move begs key questions. Is this a new era of the pacification of Araucanía?

“The Mapuche are right to fear further military presence. A week into the Boric presidency, Rubén Collio, a prolific Mapuche environmental campaigner, was killed in a suspicious car accident on a remote highway. He was the husband of Macarena Valdés, an activist who led a campaign against Austrian company RP Global’s hydropower dam on the Tranguil River in southern Chile. After complaining of harassment by employees in an RP Global vehicle, Valdés was found dead in the family home by her adolescent son in 2017. Most recently, on May 5, a Mapuche activist taking part in a land reclamation action in Casa Piedra, Tirua was killed by a spray of bullets shot from the window of an unmarked car.”

Watergate at 50: The Hidden Hand of the CIA

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Scorpions' Dance

JEFFERSON MORLEY, morleyj@gmail.com, @jeffersonmorleyMorley’s book Scorpions’ Dance: The President, the Spymaster and Watergate was just released Tuesday. The 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in is June 17.

The book focuses on the relationship between President Richard Nixon and then-CIA Director Richard Helms and relies on documents that have since been partly released and a reexamination of overlooked portions of Nixon’s tapes. Morley said today: “We can now say with confidence what the CIA denied: that Howard Hunt was a CIA asset at the same time he was a Watergate burglar.”
In his recent piece “The [Redacted] Truth About the CIA’s [Redacted] Role in Watergate” for the Daily Beast, Morley writes: “A redacted FBI memo from May 1973 conceals details about Hunt’s role in breaking into the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. The memo was addressed to Acting FBI Director Mark Felt who was serving as a confidential source, known as Deep Throat, for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.”

Morely also just wrote “Nixon’s Plan to Threaten the CIA on JFK’s Assassination” for Politico. Nixon’s obsession with “the whole Bay of Pigs thing” has intrigued many for decades. A largely overlooked tape provides answers.

Morley recounts a Nixon conversation with then-CIA director Helms. Morley writes: “‘The “Who shot John?” angle,’ he [Nixon] said quietly, 17 minutes into the conversation. Nixon did not dwell on the phrase. He didn’t need to. In the context of his long-standing demand for the CIA’s records, the invocation of ‘the “Who shot John?” angle’ can only refer to one thing: Kennedy’s assassination. The ambush in Dallas was the first thing on Nixon’s mind as he pressed the director for the agency’s Bay of Pigs files. The president intuited a connection between the failed invasion in 1961 and JFK’s assassination two years later.

“Nixon had no desire to expose what Helms called the agency’s ‘dirty linen.’ Rather, he wanted to use the Bay of Pigs issue against presumed rival Ted Kennedy while defending the CIA from recent allegations that the CIA’s plots against Castro had led to JFK’s death. Nixon knew the Agency was vulnerable to JFK’s assassination, which he presumed gave him leverage over Helms.”

National Survey: More Older Adults Unvaccinated and Unboosted Than Previously Reported

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A nationwide survey by the COVID States Project found that a higher number of older Americans are unvaccinated and unboosted than widely reported in the CDC data used by most public health officials. At the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, researcher Benjy Renton writes that the survey “sheds light on the critical need to vaccinate and boost older Americans.” 

MATTHEW BAUM, matthew_baum@harvard.edu
    Baum is Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications and a professor of public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. 

The preprint of the survey’s findings notes that “the risk of hospitalization and death from [Covid-19] is far higher for older adults, making vaccination particularly critical in reducing the impact of the pandemic.” The survey found that 13% of older Americans are still completely unvaccinated, and an additional 14% are fully vaccinated but have not received a booster––a significant gap considering the Omicron variants’ ability to evade immune defenses. 

The survey takes a second look at national CDC data, which oddly asserts that over 100% of the population of older adults are vaccinated. The “CDC data on vaccination rates are clearly significantly flawed,” the authors write, “because they indicate that there are more older Americans who have received at least one dose of vaccine than there are older Americans.”

Baum told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that there has been a need to critically assess the CDC data, which has been understood as “flawed ground truth” for the duration of the pandemic. According to Baum, the federal government has significant challenges to obtain “an accurate picture of first, second, and booster shots and then align [those numbers] with individuals. States are uneven in reporting data.” But now that some older Americans are receiving third and fourth shots, we start seeing “numbers over 100 percent.” 

The preprint notes that this is most likely because “the CDC attributes the boosters (and perhaps second shots) that many people have received to being first shots, likely due to poor vaccination record linkage for those individuals. As a result, CDC data likely understate how many people are completely unvaccinated and how many people have received boosters, and overstate the number of individuals who have received only a single dose.” The survey data, however, are more sensitive to “discerning things like booster shots,” as it is an opt-in survey that can get a “critical mass of respondents in every state,” Baum says. 

In the past several months, much of the public, including many public health officials, have landed on a narrative that assumes older Americans are safely vaccinated and boosted. Yet Baum says that “there is still work to be done in that age group… Our evidence suggests it’s not over and done.”

Harvard public health researcher Renton told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that “while [older Americans] were prioritized during the initial rollout––with 91% having completed the primary series––there are currently 15.1-plus million Americans over the age of 65 who have not received their first booster. We must continue to bring vaccines to people where they are.”

The study also looked at the reasons older Americans cite for being unvaccinated. Contrary to depictions that all those who remain unvaccinated are ideologically opposed to it and are unpersuadable, the data found that many older Americans were not necessarily resistant to being vaccinated: Rather, they “indicated an openness to getting a booster but cited obstacles or a lack of urgency to do so.” Baum says that public health officials could address the concerns held by these older Americans who may be persuadable to be vaccinated ––but “that will take time and effort.” 

New Paper: Corporate Profits Central Role in Causing Inflation

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SERVAAS STORM, [in the Netherlands, for print reporters] S.T.H.Storm@tudelft.nl
PIA MALANEY, pmalaney@ineteconomics.org@piamalaney
Storm is senior lecturer of economics at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. His “Inflation in the Time of Corona and War” [full PDF] has just been published by the Institute for New Economic Thinking in New York.

Malaney is senior economist at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. She was recently featured on the IPA news release: “Fed’s Fix is Wrong: Inflation Caused by ‘Skyrocketing’ Corporate Profits More Than Wages.”

Storm writes in his new paper: “The non-financial corporate profits per unit of real GDP have increased from 10.8 percent in 2020 Q2 to 15.6 percent in 2021 Q3 during the corona-period [see Figure 10]. Nominal growth of corporate profits (by 35 percent) during 2021 has vastly outstripped nominal increases in the compensation of employees (10 percent) as well as the PCE [personal consumption expenditure] inflation rate (6.1 percent). According to The Wall Street Journal, nearly two out of three of the biggest U.S. publicly traded companies had larger profit margins this year than they did in 2019, prior to the pandemic. Nearly 100 of these corporations did report profits in 2021 that are 50 percent above profit margins from 2019. Evidence from corporate earnings calls shows that CEOs are boasting about their ‘pricing power,’ meaning the ability to raise prices without losing customers. Even the Chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, has weighed in on this issue, stating that large corporations with near monopolistic market power are ‘raising prices because they can.’ These profit increases have contributed to a process of profit-price inflation.”

New Database Aggregates Pandemic Policies

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A database introduced this month aggregates state policies that had the goal of mitigating the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic consequences. 

The group began working on the Covid-19 U.S. State Policy (CUSP) databaseto document the dates and components of economic relief and public health measures issued at the state level” in response to the pandemic. 

JULIA RAIFMAN, jraifman@bu.edu, @JuliaRaifman 
    Raifman is an Assistant Professor of Health Law, Policy and Management at Boston University. She conducts research on population health and health disparities.

The Covid-19 U.S. State Policy database has provided continually updated information documenting the “widespread variation in state policy decisions and implementation dates” across the country. It has also already been used to shape pandemic response.  

Raifman, one of the creators of CUSP, has spoken out in the past about the end to economic pandemic support to families. Raifman told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “Starting in March 2020, we documented state policies to prevent [Covid-19] and to reduce economic hardship to inform rapid response research and policymaking. Researchers have used [CUSP] to conduct important research on eviction freezes, mask mandates, physical distancing policies, unemployment insurance and minimum wage. We hope the database will be useful for informing further learning about policy impacts in the years ahead, to better prepare us for future outbreaks or crises.” 

Trailer Park Residents Take on Venture Capitalists

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JOSEPH BULLINGTON, joseph@inthesetimes.com
Bullington is rural editor for In These Times. His most recent piece is “Trailer Park Residents Take on Venture Capitalists — and Win.”

He writes from Colorado: “Alejandra Chavez, 30, moved to the area 18 years ago to join her parents, who fled economic desolation in Mexico and found work in Durango. In 2008, the family bought their trailer in Westside Mobile Home Park for $12,000. It was in rough shape, but Chavez’s father, who owns a construction company, spent years and some $20,000 renovating it into a comfortable home. Westside, Chavez says, has been a good place to live – a neighborhood where Latino, Native American and white families raise their kids together.

“As is common in trailer parks, however, the Chavezes and most of their neighbors own their homes but not the land beneath them. In December 2021, they received notice that the park was for sale. Chavez pictured their homes being torn down to make way for a hotel, a gas station or some other amenity for ski resort-goers. Or their homes might simply become unaffordable: In recent years, an inrush of tourists, remote workers and investors has driven land and housing prices out of control in Durango and across the West. The park’s prospective buyer, Harmony Communities, raised lot rents by 50 percent when it bought a trailer park in Golden, Colo., in 2021.

“Chavez and the other Westside residents saw one other option – one way to turn private tragedy into collective victory. On Jan. 14, residents formed a cooperative, elected representatives (including Chavez to the role of vice president), and voted to try to buy the park themselves.

“The $5.46 million asking price was daunting, but residents knew the cost of failure. Chavez has friends who pile in six to a car and drive 2.5‑hour commutes to Durango from cheaper towns in New Mexico, casualties of this new, outdoorsy form of gentrification.

“The land rush has not spared mobile home parks, which speculators buy up as investment properties. Two such investors even started ‘Mobile Home University’ (MHU) to sell online courses in how to do it. In a blog post titled ‘How to Make Huge Returns on Mobile Home Parks,’ MHU co-founder Frank Rolfe sums up the strategy: ‘It costs $3,000 to move a mobile home. … As a result, tenants cannot leave when you raise their rents.'”

Does the Supreme Court Administer Justice?

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Abortion rights advocates this week have been blockading intersections near the Supreme Court. At least one activist has been arrested for chaining himself to the fencing that now surrounds the Supreme Court building.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of law at the University of Illinois. His books include Tackling America’s Toughest QuestionsHe has been advocating that the Democrats embrace expanding the court since the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.Boyle said today: “Any violent actions against members of the Supreme Court are condemnable but should not obscure a central truth to people: The Federalist Society, with its complete distortion of the Constitution and phony concept of ‘Originalism,’ has been packing the courts since the Reagan administration. The Democratic Party should embrace counterpacking the courts. “Contrary to what many claim, FDR’s plan to expand the Supreme Court was a great success. The court got the message and began to uphold his New Deal legislation after previously striking it down, which prompted his scheme in the first place. So he did not have to pack the court. But these Federalist Society members are so hard core, it will be needed now. [Boyle is a longtime critic of the Federalist Society; see “Hijacking Justice” from 1999 in Emerge magazine.]“Eliminating life tenure would require a Constitutional amendment, which is a non-starter to begin with and even a waste of time, efforts and money to try. Counterpacking is the best way to deal with this.” See recent interview: “Noam Chomsky: The Supreme Court Is Wielding Illegitimate Authority in the U.S.

Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy just wrote the piece “Stop Calling them ‘Justices’ — That’s ‘Not Their Job.’” He notes that John Roberts has said: “What is morally just and right — that’s not my job.”

338,000 U.S. Lives Could Have Been Saved from Covid, Study Finds

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A new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, has found that between the beginning of the pandemic until mid-March 2022, universal health care could have saved more than 338,000 lives from Covid-19. The study also calculated that $105.6 billion could have been saved in health care costs associated with Covid hospitalizations. The study demonstrates that a significant share of Covid mortality in the U.S. is “due to our reliance on a system of market-driven health care.” 

JAMES G. KAHN, MD, JGKahn@ucsf.edu
    Kahn is a professor at the Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF’s Institute for Health Policy Studies.

Kahn, who is a co-author on the study, told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “This important modeling analysis and its companion empirical study in Lancet Regional Health demonstrate the massive mortality burden imposed on the U.S. population by the lack of universal insurance––tens of thousands of added deaths in a typical year and more than 300,000 during [Covid]. Placing the profits of private insurers over the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans is obscene.”

Kahn’s comment in Health Justice Monitor notes that the pair of studies finally provide a “firm numerical estimate” of Covid-19 mortality and its relation to American health care. 

Alison Galvani, the study’s lead author, told Scientific American that “health care reform is long overdue in the U.S.Prior to the pandemic, 28 million American adults were uninsured, and 9 million more lost their insurance as a result of unemployment at the start of the pandemic. The study compared the mortality risks of Covid-19 among people with and without insurance. In their cost estimates of insuring the entire U.S. population, the authors found that “a single-payer health care system would generate savings in three ways: more efficient investment in preventative care, lowered administrative costs and increased negotiating power for pharmaceuticals, equipment and fees.”

Saudi: The Death of One is a Tragedy; the Death of Millions is a Statistic

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Yemen: responding to the world's largest humanitarian cris… | Flickr

The Biden administration has recently announced the president will be traveling to meet with the Sauci monarch Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in July.

On Wednesday, the street in front of the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. was named “Jamal Khashoggi Way” in honor of the journalist the Saudi government murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. (See Los Angeles Times piece: “‘Cut it into pieces’: Jamal Khashoggi’s dismemberment was methodically planned, U.N. report says.”)

AISHA JUMAAN, MD, aisha@yemenfoundation.org, @AishaJumaan

Dr. Jumaan is president of the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction FoundationShe recently co-wrote the piece “Corporate Media Fail to Cover War in Yemen Due to U.S. Support for Saudi Arabia.” 

She said today regarding the killing of Khashoggi and the Saudi war against Yemen: “It is true what they say, ‘The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.'”
While many have focused on the oil factor regarding Saudi Arabia, Jumaan notes that historically, Saudi Arabia is often the world’s largest importer of weapons — meaning that part of Biden’s motivation in going to Saudi Arabia is to ensure continued weapons sales. See USA Today report from 2019: “Saudi Arabia buys the most weapons from the U.S. government.”
Dr. Jumaan added: “Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has been using these weapons to wage a brutal war against the Yemeni people, committing many war crimes. Yet President Biden is traveling to Saudi Arabia to offer security guarantees! It is the Yemeni people who need protection, and President Biden must ensure that Saudi Arabia stops its aggression against Yemen.”She writes in her recent piece: “News outlets in the United States give prime coverage to the war in Ukraine but mostly ignore the devastating war that the U.S. has supported. … As a result, most of the U.S. public is unaware of the war’s catastrophic impact on the Yemeni population: according to the United Nations, around 400,000 people have died and 16.2 million are at the brink of starvation.”

Robert Naiman recently wrote the piece: “Mad About Biden’s Saudi Safari? Pass the Yemen War Powers Resolution!” — urging Congress to take effective steps to force a stop to the Saudi targeting of Yemen. He writes: “The administration claims that it is trying to make the current truce permanent. Why would administration officials have any problem with codifying stated administration policy?”

Assange Case: Persecution for Exposing War Crimes

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File:Julian Assange August 2014.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

British Home Secretary has approved extradition of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the U.S. where he would face a 175 year sentence after being in prison for over three years in Britain. A news conference is being held with Assange’s lawyers, wife and press freedom groups.

JOHN SHIPTON, shipton@pm.me
GABRIEL SHIPTON, gab@shiptonhouse.com.au

John Shipton and Gabriel Shipton, who are in the U.S., are Assange’s father and brother. They are from Australia. Gabriel Shipton said in a recent interview: “There is a real opportunity for President Biden and Secretary Blinken to walk the walk [on press freedom and international human rights] by releasing Assange.”

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola has extensively covered and attended legal proceedings against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

His forthcoming book is Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case Against Julian Assange

The U.S. is trying to extradite Assange for exposing documentation of U.S. government killings. Among the exposes that Assange is being prosecuted for is exposing video of the “Collateral Murder” killings by U.S. soldiers from a helicopter gunship mowing down Reuters staffers in Iraq. Reuters had requested the video and other evidence in 2007, when the attack occurred, but the U.S. government kept it secret until WikiLeaks made it public in 2010.See Gosztola overview article about core issues in the case: “In Charging Assange With 17 Espionage Act Offenses, Prosecutors Claim Power to Decide Who Is and Is Not a Journalist.”

See prior IPA news releases including “Assange: Exposed War Crimes, Imprisoned for 1000 Days; Blair: Committed War Crimes, was Just Knighted.”

Another recent book is The Trial of Julian Assange: A Story of Persecution by Nils Melzer, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The book’s description summarizes much of the case:

“In July 2010, WikiLeaks published the ‘Afghan War Diary,’ one of the biggest leaks in U.S. military history, including evidence for war crimes and torture. Shortly afterwards, Sweden investigated WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for rape and a secret grand jury in the U.S. investigated him for espionage. When both Sweden and Britain refused to guarantee that Assange would not be extradited to the U.S., he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he stayed for the next seven years.

“When Ecuador finally turned him over to Britain in 2019, the U.S. immediately demanded his extradition and threatened him with 175 years in prison. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, initially declined to get involved. Only when he visited Assange in prison and researched the facts did he begin to see through the deception and recognize the case for what it really was: the story of a political persecution.”

Leftist Petro Wins Colombia Presidential Election

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FORREST HYLTON, forresthylton@gmail.com

Associate professor of political science at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Hylton is author of Evil Hour in Colombia. He is a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books where he just wrote the piece “Fiesta Democrática.”

Hylton writes: “Most final polls, taken a week before yesterday’s election, showed Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernández more or less even, but Petro won by 50.44 to 47.3, with 11.28 million votes, nearly three million more than he got in the first round on 29 May. …

“Now Colombia is largely urban, and Petro’s margin of victory in Bogotá alone was enough to account for his victory over Hernández. The country lacked an urban left throughout the Cold War. The escalating war in the countryside between (Leninist) Farc or ELN [National Liberation Army] insurgents and military/paramilitary counter-insurgents left little room for politics in the public squares of Colombia’s cities. Three presidential candidates were murdered by the far right during the 1990 elections. This was when Gustavo Petro and his comrades in the nationalist urban guerrilla group M-19 laid down their arms to come in from the cold and take part in public life. Most of them were subsequently murdered, but Petro survived, and went on to expose [former President] Uribe [currently on trial for bribery and witness tampering] and the paramilitarism of the Colombian senate. He ran for president in 2010 but didn’t get far. Petroleum, gas, coal, gold and cocaine exports accelerated.

“He served as mayor of Bogotá from 2012 to 2015 — with a brief hiatus when his mandate was revoked and he was barred from public life, until the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights got him restored — and as an opposition senator in 2018, after winning 42 per cent of the vote in the second round of presidential elections. No previous candidate from the left had reached double digits. Many people, especially younger voters, see Petro as part of the political establishment. He wasn’t a leader in the general strike of late 2019 or the national popular uprising of mid-2021.“His running mate Francia Márquez, however, an Afro-Colombian environmental activist and human rights lawyer who has worked as a domestic servant — and, like Petro, survived credible death threats — did speak for the people seeking to assert their democratic rights and grassroots sovereignty, especially in 2021, when politicians lost contact with what was happening on the ground, as young frontline militants battled police nightly for over two months.”

Biden’s Saudi Trip: For Cheaper Gas — or for Israel?

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Photo credit: Stern Matty, Flickr

The New York Times reports: “Israel Confirms Regional Military Project, Showing Its Growing Role.” Antiwar.com reports: “Israel Reveals It’s Building a U.S.-Backed Regional Military Alliance Against Iran.”

TRITA PARSI, tparsi@gmail.com@tparsi
Parsi is the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute and just wrote the piece “The real reason for Biden’s capitulation to the Saudi Crown Prince.”

He writes: “All the latest headlines about President Joe Biden’s July trip to Saudi Arabia focus on a deal to push down gas prices. In reality, he is making a much more sinister and dangerous calculation than most realize: He is reportedly planning to offer the dictators in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — where all but two of the 9/11 terrorists came from — a military pact that commits American lives to defend their regimes. What could go right?

“When Biden ran for the White House, he pledged to break with then-President Donald Trump’s Middle East policy: bring U.S. troops home from the Middle East, renew the Iran nuclear deal, end the war in Yemen, and ‘make the Saudis the pariah that they are.’ But after refusing to take necessary steps to return to the Iran deal, and with rumors abounding that he is about to offer the UAE and Saudi Arabia a military pact, Biden’s policy is increasingly looking like a continuation of Trump’s Middle East strategy.

“Biden isn’t just forgiving Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his direct role in the beheading of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in return for a Saudi promise to pump more oil. As Biden admitted last week, this Middle East trip is about regional security — and that of Israel in particular. ‘The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy,’ Biden told reporters June 12. ‘It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia. That’s the reason I’m going. And it has to do with national security for them — for Israelis.’

“Rumors have been circulating in Washington for months that Biden is seeking to expand Trump’s signature foreign policy initiative — the Abraham Accords — which normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain and the UAE; Biden wants to bring Saudi Arabia into a similar kind of arrangement with Israel. Details are beginning to leak of how he will try to get Saudi Arabia to take critical steps toward recognizing Israel. And the most alarming one is that the United States is offering a major security pact to the autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

Billions to Military While School Lunch Program Expires

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Motherly reports: “Congress is letting free school lunch program expire for 10 million children.”

Politico reports: “The Senate Armed Services Committee has endorsed a $45 billion increase to President Joe Biden’s military spending plans in its annual defense policy bill, blowing past the administration’s Pentagon budget for a second straight year.”

KEITH McHENRY, keith@foodnotbombs.net@keith_mchenry
McHenry is co-founder of the global Food Not Bombs movement. He said today: “When the USDA reports that over 6 million children are already going without adequate food, how can we cut the school lunch program yet add $45 billion in military spending above President Biden’s already criminal $813 billion request? As the economy crashes millions more children are sure to go hungry. I get calls everyday from desperate families seeking food. We are already struggling to keep up with the need. We have been providing the families at one of our local school districts with groceries and we are only 45 minutes away from the headquarters of Google and Facebook. This spells disaster for the future of the United States. Real national security would be ending hunger and homelessness not delivering hundreds of billions in our tax dollars to the arms industry.”

McHenry has a regular segment on the radio program “Flashpoints” on KPFA, “Foodfight: the Life and Death Battle Against Hunger and Houslessness,”

Food Not Bombs provides free meals. Some governments have tried to stop them. See past IPA news releases: “Santa Cruz Threatens to Evict Food Not Bombs” and “Food Not Bombs Wins Against City Gov Trying to Stop Free Meals; Other Battles Continue.”

Calls for U.S. to Unfreeze Afghan Funds

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An earthquake in Afghanistan has killed at least 1,000 people.

ZAHER WAHAB, zwahab@lclark.edu
Professor emeritus at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education, Wahab was senior adviser to the education ministry in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006. He was featured on an IPA news release earlier this year: “Facing Starvation and Sanctions, How Does Afghanistan Move Forward?

ROSSELLA MICCIO, FRANCESCA BOCCHINI, via David Lloyd Webber, david.lloydwebber@emergency.it
Miccio is president of the group EMERGENCY. Bocchini is advocacy manager for the organization which last month released the report: “How to guarantee humanitarian aid to the Afghan people after August 2021?

Based in Italy, EMERGENCY provides free, high-quality healthcare to victims of war, poverty and landmines, alongside building hospitals and training local medical staff. EMERGENCY has treated over 12 million people in 20 countries and currently operates in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Italy, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen.

The recent report states: “The Taliban takeover in August 2021 marked a new phase of a complex and severe economic crisis. The de facto government’s international isolation, the sudden cessation of grant inflows, freezing of central bank assets in the U.S. ($7 billion) and in Europe ($2.1 billion), the imposition of sanctions, the subsequent paralysis of the Afghan Central Bank (DAB), and the breakdown of international banking relationships caused economic output over the last months of 2021 to decline by one-third.”

EMERGENCY recommends:

•   “It is essential to support the UN Secretary General’s appeal for a creative, flexible and constructive engagement with the de facto authorities, placing the needs of the Afghan people first.

•   “The international community should fill the $2 billion funding gap left after the recent UN appeal for Afghanistan. Funds should be integrated, multi-annual, fast and flexible.

•   “Afghan reserve funds should be unfrozen. Technical assistance to restore the role of the Afghanistan Central Bank as an independent institution and financial regulator should be guaranteed.

•   “It is urgent to reactivate Kabul International Airport to ensure the prompt delivery of humanitarian aid.

•   “Investing in health must be a priority in order to give the Afghan population a future, rebuilding essential services and offering jobs, including to women.

•   “To make the healthcare system more resilient it is vital to invest in health infrastructure and to make education at all levels accessible for all, including women and girls. Investments in higher education and capacity building programmes should be strengthened in terms of quality and quantity.”

* After Roe in Alabama * Counterpacking the Court

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ROBIN MARTY, via Ruth Weiner, ruth@sevenstories.com, @robinmarty

Marty is director of operations at West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and author of the book Handbook for a Post-Roe America from Seven Stories Press. She was just featured by NPR: “Patients in ‘trigger law’ states reorient after access to abortion care halts.”

FRANCIS BOYLE,  fboyle@illinois.edu

Boyle is professor of law at the University of Illinois. His books include Tackling America’s Toughest QuestionsHe has been advocating that the Democrats embrace expanding the court for years. Boyle told the Guardian in 2018: “I think Kavanaugh was put on there to ensure Roe is overturned. … He has used the Roberts dodge of saying it is settled law. So what? The supreme court can unsettle it tomorrow. He did not say it was decided correctly.”Boyle said today: “The Federalist Society, with its complete distortion of the Constitution and phony concept of ‘Originalism,’ has been packing the courts since the Reagan administration. The Democratic Party should embrace counterpacking the courts.

“But the Democratic Party is only going to be moved by sustained, massive protests.“The Federalist Society is ultimately going to target much of FDR’s New Deal and the Warren Court precedents including even Brown v. Board of Education. Also, freedom of the press — they will seek to overturn New York Times v. Sullivan protecting America’s Fourth Estate.“Contrary to what many claim, FDR’s plan to expand the Supreme Court was a great success. The court got the message and began to uphold his New Deal legislation after previously striking it down, which prompted his scheme in the first place. So he did not have to pack the court. But these Federalist Society members are so hard core, it will be needed now. [Boyle is a longtime critic of the Federalist Society, see “Hijacking Justice” from 1999 in Emerge magazine.]“Eliminating life tenure would require a Constitutional amendment, which is a non-starter to begin with and even a waste of time, efforts and money to try. Counterpacking is the best way to deal with this.”

Blinded by “Russiaphobia”

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File:Vladimir Putin 11-10-2020 (cropped).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

JOHN “PAT” WILLERTON, jpw@email.arizona.eduWillerton is a professor of political science in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona focusing on Russia. See his TEDx Talk, “The Russian Soul” from 2013.

He said today: “We have — from the start — misjudged Russia, its political, economic, and military realities, and we now confront a Russia that is winning the conventional war in Ukraine while we face the reality that Russia is politically united and its economy withstanding the sanction pressures we have applied. This is the consequence of living in a world of our own hyped constructions about Russia that vary far from Russia’s reality.

“Our misperceptions are grounded in a profound Russophobia that has yielded bad policy choices. We suffer from the problem of ‘paradigm blindness,’ our Russophobic paradigm blinding us to Russian domestic realities and intentions.

“The Russian economy is stronger than westerners thought and it shows minimal stresses from sanctions. As time passes, it is cutting many economic deals, and it is doing so on its terms (e.g., energy deals in rubles). Meanwhile, outside of the West, most of the world refuses to apply sanctions and many countries do business with Russia.

“Russian society is proving to be prepared to confront the privations that could come with a ‘Western crusade.’ Public support for Russian efforts in Ukraine and in confronting the West are overwhelming now. Russian society appears more unified while fissures are already evident in Europe.
“Perhaps it’s time to step back and try to analyze Russia as it really is, rather than rely on cartoon character arguments that cannot yield effective policies.”

Covid Behind Bars Project Finds Failure of Geriatric Parole Reform

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Since the start of the pandemic, UCLA Law’s Covid Behind Bars Project has tracked, collected and analyzed public information about Covid-19 in prisons, jails, youth facilities and immigration detention centers. Last week, the project released a study called Only Six,” in which researcher Isabelle Geczy analyzed Nevada’s emergency medical use mechanisms (including geriatric parole and compassionate release) during the pandemic. 

SHARON DOLOVICH, JD, PhD, dolovich@law.ucla.edu, @SharonDolovich
    Dolovich is a professor of law at UCLA School of Law and the director of the UCLA Prison Law and Policy Program. 

In a summary of the study, Geczy writes that Nevada could have been “uniquely well-positioned” to save the lives of people incarcerated in Nevada state prisons during the pandemic. “In 2019,” Geczy notes, “the state legislature passed A.B. 236, a sweeping omnibus criminal justice bill that contained…reforms to the state’s geriatric parole system. Prior to 2019, the state had barely any functional geriatric parole system.” 

But the “Only Six” study details how “opposition groups, including prosecutors and law enforcement officials, argued that such broad eligibility for geriatric parole [as originally described in A.B. 236] would threaten public safety in Nevada communities.” Before the bill was signed into law in June 2020, its policy recommendations were “excluded or significantly watered down,” making its geriatric reform provisions “so weakened as to be almost meaningless.”

In the end, only six people were found eligible for geriatric parole, and zero received a parole hearing. During that time, 8,000 people incarcerated in Nevada reportedly tested positive for the virus, and at least 60 have died from it.  

Dolovich, the director of the UCLA Covid Behind Bars Project, told the Institute for Public Accuracy that the Nevada research was part of a study looking at geriatric parole in every state––and that the group was “inundated with the same story over and over again. Those lawmakers who initially introduced the legislation seemed motivated to develop mechanisms that would function in a meaningful way,” Dolovich said. But invariably, “their draft bills would be whittled down in the legislative process after objections by prosecutors and police.” “The exclusions come thick and fast,” she said.

Geriatric parole releases have waned since the first months of the pandemic, when the subject was a relatively prominent concern for the public, courts and legislators. By the end of May 2020, however, concern from the public had largely dissipated. In her article “Mass Incarceration, Meet Covid-19,” Dolovich describes how––although jails saw pronounced population drops in the first months of the pandemic and prisons had saw smaller but still substantial drops––by October 2020, “jail populations had begun to creep back up, prison releases had largely ceased, and few signs remained of a more robust decarceral strategy.” 

Dolovich pins that shift not only on the public’s Covid fatigue, a lack of adequate testing in jails and prisons, and a shift in social justice-oriented media coverage, but also to the fact that “by mid-May, it was clear that the federal courts were not going to be an effective channel for release,” easing the pressure correctional officials may have previously felt to speed up or expand releases in order to avoid possible legal liability. 

Now, a year and a half later and in the context of a media environment impacted by current political rhetoric about rising crime in major U.S. cities, Dolovich told IPA that “beyond question this rhetoric will empower constituencies to make sure compassionate release clauses have no teeth and no meaning for people in practice––leaving elderly, medically compromised people, who are more likely to have serious complications and die from Covid,” out in the cold. This is especially significant given that, as Dolovich has noted, “people in prison are generally physiologically older than their chronological age would suggest, and are consequently more likely than other members of society to have a host of medical issues known to exacerbate complications from [Covid], including heart disease, asthma, hypertension and diabetes.”

Michigan Supreme Court Uses “Star Chamber” to Kill Flint Water Charges Against Officials

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Flint Water Crisis is ongoing | I was back in Flint today an… | Flickr

AP reports in “Court kills Flint water charges against ex-governor, others” that: “The Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out charges against former Gov. Rick Snyder and others in the Flint water scandal, saying a judge sitting as a one-person grand jury had no power to issue indictments under rarely used state laws.

“It’s an astonishing defeat for Attorney General Dana Nessel, who took office in 2019, got rid of a special prosecutor and put together a new team to investigate whether crimes were committed when lead contaminated Flint’s water system in 2014-15.“State laws ‘authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants’ as a grand juror, the Supreme Court said.“‘But they do not authorize the judge to issue indictments,’ the court said in a 6-0 opinion written by Chief Justice Bridget McCormack.“She called it a ‘Star Chamber comeback,’ a pejorative reference to an oppressive, closed-door style of justice in England in the 17th century.”
NAYYIRAH SHARIFF, nayyirah.shariff@gmail.com, @FlintRising

Shariff is with Flint Rising, which just released a statement: “We at Flint Rising are disgusted with the Michigan Supreme Court ruling that tosses out the indictments of former Governor Rick Synder, Nick Lyon, Richard Baird, Dr. Eden Wells, Darnell Earley, Gerald Ambrose, Jarrod Agen, Howard Croft and Nancy Peeler, the state and local officials responsible for the Flint water crisis. This leaves no one criminally responsible for poisoning 100,000 people in one of the largest public health disasters in this nation’s history.

“It has been 2,986 days since the start of the Flint water crisis. Throughout the years, we’ve sent buses of Flint residents to our state and nation’s capital, shared our stories, marched in the streets, and fought for reparations for our community. Before Flint, it wasn’t common knowledge that drinking water was a source for lead exposure. Our narratives and organizing drove revisions to [the] Lead and Copper Rule at the state and federal level. We were successful in leveraging our advocacy into making lead service line replacement a reality for communities across the country through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“Yet no one has been held accountable. We thought that the pain our families faced and the trauma we shared would lead to accountability at the end of this horrendous journey. We held onto the elusive hope that someone would be held criminally responsible. This is the second time that the promise of accountability has been snatched away from poisoned Flint residents. It has become increasingly clear that the judicial system is not a viable option for a poor majority Black community facing injustice.” See full statement.

Maxwell Sentenced to 20 Years for Conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein: Will Powerful Men be Held Accountable?

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One Nation Under Blackmail

Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse minors on Tuesday. Her lawyers have stated they will appeal the sentence.

Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Chris Hedges wrote during Maxwell’s trial that it will “not hold to account the powerful and wealthy men who are also complicit in the sexual assaults of girls as young as twelve Maxwell allegedly procured for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
“Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, hedge-fund billionaire Glenn Dubin, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, former Secretary of the Treasury and former president of Harvard Larry Summers, Stephen Pinker, Prince Andrew, Alan Dershowitz, billionaire Victoria’s Secret CEO Les Wexner, the J.P. Morgan banker Jes Staley, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barack, real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman, former Maine senator George Mitchell, Harvey Weinstein and many others who were at least present and most likely participated in Epstein’s perpetual Bacchanalia, are not in court. … Epstein’s death in a New York jail cell, while officially ruled a suicide, is in the eyes of many credible investigators a murder.”

In February, the British Independent reported “Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre reach ‘£10m’ settlement over sexual abuse claim.” Giuffre was one of the girls targeted by Maxwell.New York magazine just published the piece: “How Leslie Wexner Helped Create Jeffrey Epstein” about how the billionaire Wexner, whose company at one point owned Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, and Bath & Body Works, funded Esptein. “Epstein’s money, Upper East Side mansion, and even the Lolita Express — originally a Boeing 727 owned by L Brands — would all come from Wexner.”

See past accuracy.org news releases citing the work of investigative reporter Whitney Webb. In 2020, she noted: “The fact the FBI won’t even touch or question Les Wexner (‘head of the snake’ of the whole op) tells you that any effort to go after Ghislaine is superficial.”

In her piece, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Shocking Origins of the Jeffrey Epstein Case,” Webb reports that “Alex Acosta — who arranged Epstein’s ‘sweetheart’ deal in 2008 and resigned as Donald Trump’s labor secretary following Epstein’s arrest — claimed that the mysterious billionaire had worked for ‘intelligence.’”

Webb also wrote about Maxwell’s father, Robert, who worked with the Mossad “according to several books including Seymour Hersh’s The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy.” She adds: “In exchange for his services, the Mossad helped Maxwell satisfy his sexual appetite during his visits to Israel, providing him with prostitutes, [whom] ‘the service maintained for blackmail purposes.’” [Quoting the book Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad by Gordon Thomas.] Webb’s book One Nation Under Blackmail: The Sordid Union Between Intelligence and Crime that Gave Rise to Jeffrey Epstein is scheduled to be released later this year.

MARLON ETTINGER, marlonjettinger@gmail.com@MarlonEttinger
Ettinger covered the Maxwell trial and wrote several pieces for his Substack including “Prince Andrew Settles.”

Migrants Dead in Trailer “Predictable”

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Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security (City Lights Open Media) - Kindle edition by Miller, Todd. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.TODD MILLER, toddmemomiller@gmail.com, @memomillerMiller’s books include Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security and Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World. His latest piece will be posted today at The Border Chronicle on Substack.

He said today: “After the June 27 tragedy in San Antonio in which 51 migrants died in the back of sweltering tractor trailer, Texas governor Greg Abbott tweeted that the deaths were a result of President Joe Biden’s ‘deadly open border policies,’ and that they show the ‘deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.’ Biden himself stated that the tragedy was ‘horrifying’ and he would send prayers, before saying ‘My administration will continue to do everything possible to stop criminal smugglers from exploiting migrants.’“Both these men on opposite sides of the U.S. political spectrum are saying the same thing: The ‘solution’ to the San Antonio tragedy is to build up, fortify, and militarize the border even more. This bipartisan cooperation is precisely what Democrat and Republicans have been doing for decades on the border. Since, for example, the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 there has been $350 billion invested in an expensive (and profitable) border and immigration apparatus of walls, armed agents, invasive surveillance technologies, biometrics, and drones. This enforcement infrastructure has been deployed using a deterrence strategy purposely designed to make crossing the border as difficult, dangerous, and deadly as possible. Many unauthorized border crossers walk through the desert for days on foot, attempt to cross a rushing river, or hide in vehicles such as tractor trailers. Between 8,000 and 10,000 people have died crossing the U.S. Mexico border since the mid 1990s (and even that could be an undercount). As border and immigration enforcement scholar Gabriella Sanchez wrote, ‘What happened in San Antonio is not a coincidence or unprecedented. It was quite predictable.’ If officials wanted these sorts of tragedies to stop, the solution is simple: they would curtail the further fortification of the border, and allow people freedom of movement.”

Report: Trump Era Covid Strategy “Likely Resulted in Many Deaths”

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Last week, the congressional Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a report on the Trump administration’s embrace of a herd immunity strategy via mass infection in the second half of 2020 and first months of 2021. The report details how the strategy was promoted by Dr. Scott Atlas while he was a Special Advisor to the President and that it “likely resulted in many deaths that would have been prevented by an effective national mitigation strategy.” 

BILL HANAGE; please direct media requests to Nicole Rura at nrura@hsph.harvard.edu 
    Hanage is an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

MALLORY HARRIS, contact via Twitter DM @malar0ne
    Harris is a PhD candidate in biology at Stanford. 

The report is the first installment of the Select Subcommittee’s findings “showing that the Trump Administration’s political interference was rampant and degraded every major facet of the nation’s public health response during the first year of the pandemic.” Hanage told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that “there will be much more to be written on this sorry period, but this [report] is an eye-opening start.”

Hanage said the report “depicts crucial missteps in pandemic management and the way they came about… This was achieved by appointing the likes of Dr. Scott Atlas [in July 2020], who had no relevant experience in infectious disease but did have a history of making scientifically unfounded statements belittling the severity of the pandemic. 

“The Select Subcommittee reports new evidence that in March 2020, Dr. Atlas was in contact with officials claiming that Covid would lead to about 10,000 deaths in the United States. That milestone was in fact passed within a few weeks… Dr. Atlas was not in any position to provide expert guidance to forecast the course of the pandemic or produce a sustainable pandemic management strategy. He did, however, provide cover in the form of a medically qualified individual prepared to support the chosen policies of the administration: policy-based evidence, if you will, instead of evidence-based policy.” In particular, Atlas successfully pressed the administration to weaken and reduce testing and undermined and politicized mask-wearing. 

Hanage added: The report offers “important insights into how ‘herd immunity’ strategies came to dominate the conversation and become a major––if unstated––component of the U.S. response to the pandemic prior to vaccination.” Justin Feldman, a social epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, also notes that these strategies have essentially been taken up by Democrats and the Biden administration this past year. 

Hanage said: “In the simplest epidemiological models, in which recovered individuals have lifelong immunity against future infection, epidemics eventually burn themselves out once they’ve exhausted the supply of available hosts––a point which is referred to as the ‘herd immunity threshold.’ A small minority of scientists proposed that enough infections in relatively low-risk individuals would allow this to be attained, and for society to then reopen once the virus had burned itself out. The difficulty is that the virus would not be expected to be eliminated by such a strategy, and there was (and is) no evidence that recovery from Covid-19 produces durable protection against future infection. So seeking herd immunity through infection would only defer the danger to older/high risk individuals, at the cost of significant morbidity (and mortality) in the young.” 

Harris has also followed how professors and scientists, especially from Stanford and including Atlas, were able to shape federal and state policies on the basis of data that was unsupported by the rest of the scientific community. Here, she details how the Great Barrington Declaration and Atlas influenced federal policy. Harris told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that it is not “new information that [these professors] were in direct contact with the federal government,” but that the report “gives us a better sense of the extent of [their activities]” as well as the extent to which Atlas had access to top officials in the White House.” Harris said that it has been “frustrating to see the name of the university” used to leverage Trump’s policies, in contrast with the public health policies that the majority of experts on the Stanford campus support. 

Ahead of Biden Visit, State Department “Investigation” into Killing of U.S.-Palestinian Journalist Gives Israel Another Pass

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File:Protesters carring photos of Shireen Abu Akleh, Lod may 22.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

MOUIN RABBANI, mail@mouinrabbani.net, @mouinrabbani

Rabbani is co-editor of JadaliyyaHe said today: “It was never in doubt that the U.S. government would put the political interests of Israel ahead of justice for a U.S. citizen killed by the Israeli military. And that is exactly what transpired as a result of the U.S. ‘investigation‘ of the killing of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, which attempted to throw sufficient doubt on the facts of the case to — once again — give Israel a get-out-of-jail-free pass. It is the equivalent of a U.S. veto at the UN Security Council to shield Israel from accountability for its war crimes in the occupied territories.”

Rabbani wrote an in-depth piece on Abu Akleh which originally appeared in the London Review of BooksHe continued: “Anyone who believed the State Department would conduct a serious investigation of the case, or concur with the consensus among media and human rights organisations that this was a summary execution by an Israeli military sniper, needs to have their head examined. That’s not how the U.S. government works, and certainly not when it comes to ensuring Israeli impunity in its dealings with Palestinians, including those who hold U.S. citizenship.

“It seems fairly certain, and is likely be confirmed when U.S. government documents are released in several decades, that shielding Israel from accountability for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh was the price U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insisted the Palestinian Authority pay for a visit by Joe Biden to Mahmoud Abbas next week. And the PA was unfortunately willing to pay this price by providing the bullet that killed Abu Akleh to U.S. officials, allowing them to claim they had conducted a serious investigation. That also tells you everything you need to know about the context and outcome of this upcoming visit.”

Inflation Caused by Supply Constraints and Soaring Corporate Profits Far More than Wages

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Biden is traveling to Ohio on Wednesday to talk about the economy.
PIA MALANEY, pmalaney@ineteconomics.org, @piamalaneyMalaney is senior economist at the Institute for New Economic Thinking.She said today: As the Fed debates further interest rate hikes to control a ‘wage-price spiral’ it is becoming increasingly clear that it is not wages that are driving today’s high inflation. Real wages have in fact been falling.“The Fed’s solution could bring down inflation over time, but not without real economic pain for those least able to bear it.“Tackling inflation effectively demands that the administration focus on the real pressures — supply constraints and soaring corporate profits. As monopoly power of large corporations has increased, so too has their ability to raise prices. Evidence from corporate earnings calls finds senior executives bragging about the ability to use inflationary pressures to raise prices above their rising input costs, finding that inflation is good for their bottom line. Corporate profits have contributed to more than 50 percent of current inflation, as compared to wage increases, which have contributed less than 10 percent.”

AIPAC “Astroturf Groups” Flooding Airwaves Against Progressive Donna Edwards

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Biden is visiting Israel next week.RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052@gmail.com, @richards1052  Silverstein is an independent journalist and researcher writing about Israeli foreign policy and covert operations. He writes at Tikun Olam and contributes to Middle East Eye, Jacobin magazine and other outlets.
He just wrote the in-depth piece “AIPAC Astroturf Groups Plow Millions into Defeating Progressive Democrats.”

He notes that the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee has been closely aligned with Republicans and that 40 of the “GOP lawmakers endorsed by AIPAC voted against certifying Joe Biden as president.” And he examines the work of Democratic Majority for Israel, “which poured $1.4-million to dent Bernie Sanders’ popularity during the 2020 presidential primaries” and has targeted numerous progressive Democrats.

His latest piece also scrutinizes how another AIPAC spinoff calling itself the United Democracy Project is targeting Democrats that AIPAC doesn’t like. He writes: “UDP may spend money to elect Democrats, but it raises money almost solely from Republican billionaire donors. …

“The Democrats on its hit list include African-American Donna Edwards who is such a ‘danger’ to Israel that UDP is spending $2.5-million (so far) to defeat her. She tweeted last week that it spent $800,000 in a single week (!) on attack ads. Her primary opponent got over $600,000 from the PAC.” The money has been poured into attack ads in Maryland.

The Intercept recently reported that even pro-Israeli Nancy Pelosi “rebukes AIPAC ads against Donna Edwards.” The ads don’t actually mention Israel, rather they claim that Edwards had poor constituent services, a charge that The Intercept notes has been “rebuked” by elected officials, labor leaders and constituents supporting Edwards.

The rightwing pro-Israeli Jewish Insider reports: “Ivey now leads Edwards ahead of MD-4 Democratic primary.”

Edwards visited Gaza in early 2009, a rarity for a member of Congress.

A prior target of UDP was Nina Turner. See recent article from Jewish Insider: “Bill de Blasio says he no longer supports AIPAC and wishes Nina Turner was in Congress.” Other targets include Summer Lee in Pennsylvania and Jessica Cisneros in Texas.

Is Monkeypox a Major Threat?

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Late last month, the CDC announced its mass monkeypox vaccination plan. It includes new capacity to conduct 10,000 tests per week and two types of vaccines, though one is in short supply. This week, Labcorp also offered to double testing capacity via its largest facility in the U.S. 

Seven weeks since the first monkeypox case was identified in the U.S., around 5,000 cases have been identified in 58 nations around the world. In the U.S., monkeypox is currently primarily spreading within gay communities and men who have sex with men. The CDC’s plan prioritizes for vaccination the men who have sex with men who have had multiple sexual partners in venues where the virus has spread or who live in high-spread areas. 

GREGG GONSALVES, gregg.gonsalves@yale.edu
    At Yale University, Gonsalves is an expert in policy modeling on infectious diseases and substance use. 

Last week, the World Health Organization declined to declare monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), although much of the criteria for the category is already met by monkeypox. Some experts expressed surprise, calling it a “missed opportunity.” Eric Fiegl-Ding, an epidemiologist and chief of the Covid Task Force at the New England Complex Systems Institute, told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “I think it’s very unfortunate that the WHO declined to declare a PHEIC over the weekend [of June 25]. I think there are obviously many more cases [of monkeypox] than are currently tested and recognized.” The report from the panel that made the decision notes that it would potentially reevaluate in 21 days, but Gonsalves says a review should come sooner

The World Health Network––a global coalition formed as a people’s task force in response to the Covid-19 pandemic––had already declared monkeypox a pandemic by June 22, citing the growth of the virus through local community transmission around the world, among other factors. In a press release, Kaitlin Sundling, a physician-scientist with Covid Action Group and World Health Network, stated that “monkeypox can affect anyone. Stigmatization has the potential to hinder timely identification and isolation of all cases.” 

Gonsalves began writing about monkeypox more than a month ago for The Nation; now, the U.S. is reporting about 600 cases. “It’s not getting better,” Gonsalves told IPA. “There is the sense that many of the cases are undiagnosed,” he noted. Things are “much worse than they were a week ago.” 

The risks of not declaring a PHEIC, Gonsalves says, are that “frankly we won’t be able to contain it. The more cases you have, the harder it is to do cleanup.” This is especially true with a virus like monkeypox, where, because transmission may occur through sexual contact or in crowded social situations like a dance party, “it’s hard to find close contacts… We’re starting with one hand tied behind our back.” Gonsalves warns that inaction may result in monkeypox becoming “a new resident infection in the gay community,” with a “jump-over every once in a while” to other populations.

Coverage of the virus in the U.S., Gonsalves said, must be “frank but not stigmatizing… It’s important to say that [monkeypox] is not a gay disease, particularly in communities in the U.S. and abroad where being gay means someone is under threat of violence––physical, verbal, or legal.” (Monkeypox initially “emerged in heterosexual people in Nigeria.”)

Gonsalves said that the CDC and White House have had “several ad-hoc conference calls” with clinicians, state and local public health officials, and LGBTQ advocates in recent weeks. Anne Rimoin, a longtime prominent monkeypox researcher at UCLA, “reached out to the gay community early on,” Gonsalves said, while Demetre Daskalakis––director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the CDC, a gay man, and a member of the leather community––has experience previously steering the community through MRSA and meningitis outbreaks. Daskalakis is well-versed in “the stakes… for the LGBTQ community.” 

Still, Gonsalves said that some reporters have told him that it has been hard to get traction for monkeypox stories due to “Covid fatigue” and due to the relatively restricted population that the virus is currently affecting. Reporters are “having trouble getting stories greenlighted.” Gonsalves is also concerned that although gay media is covering the issue, as well as major outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post, “information may not be distributed equally at the moment.” Indeed, when New York City launched its vaccine station in Chelsea, serving primarily white gay men, the clinic quickly reached capacity and had to stop making appointments until it received more vaccines. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, July 6, New Yorkers struggled to book appointments in a “botched roll-out that the health department is blaming on technological glitches,” wrote Politico.

But monkeypox is affecting and will continue to affect other demographics. For one thing, the virus is “already in the South”––which Gonsalves notes is the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. as well as a region with comparatively higher rates of undiagnosed HIV. Undiagnosed HIV may make people more vulnerable to other viruses like monkeypox.

Supreme Court Inaction on New York Vaccine Mandate “Way Too Early to Celebrate”

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The U.S. Supreme Court has left in place New York’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, which had received a challenge over its lack of a religious exemption. In December, the high court had rejected an emergency request from medical workers demanding a religious exemption in New York. At the time, while the majority did not cite a reason for rejecting the applications, three justices objected to the rejection. They reiterated their objections when the Court acted at the end of June.

TIMOTHY JOST; JostT@wlu.edu 
    Jost is an Emeritus Professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law.

LAWRENCE GOSTIN; gostin@georgetown.edu, @LawrenceGostin
    Gostin is a professor at Georgetown University, the founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health law, the faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, and the director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law. 

Jost told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “It seems that only the three most conservative members of the Court were willing to go further at this point in limiting the ability of the states to protect the public health or expanding the restrictions placed on the state when anyone claims religious discrimination. This issue will no doubt come up again and given the inclinations that the court showed this term the result may be different.”

Gostin echoed Jost’s caution about future decisions, telling the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the challenge to New York State’s vaccine mandate for health care workers means that, at least for now, cities and states may require their workers, and especially those who work in health care, to be vaccinated. But it is way too early to celebrate. There is a core group of hyper-conservative justices on the Supreme Court who are flexing their muscles. The next shoe to drop may well be state vaccine mandates. 

    “I don’t foresee the Court banning cities and states from requiring vaccinations, including vaccine mandates as a condition of school entry,” Gostin said, explaining that cities and states have, after all, “historical police powers that allow them to regulate for the public’s health and safety.” However, Gostin is greatly concerned  “that the Court is poised to require cities and states to offer a broad religious exemption for vaccine mandates. New York does not have a religious opt out, and in the past the courts have not required it. That all may change in the coming months and years. Having narrow or no religious exemptions is crucial because such exemptions open a yawning gap in vaccination coverage, as we have seen with measles outbreaks.”

When asked why the Supreme Court passed up the opportunity to rule on religious freedom in this case, Gostin said: “I think the Court is waiting for another time to do that in the right case and on the full docket. But make no mistake about it, religious freedom may one day trump public health.”

Erica N. White, a research scholar at the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University, added: Challenges to state vaccine mandates generally are religious challenges–arguing that policies are discriminatory against would-be religious objectors. The Court has a history of allowing these challenges to play out in lower courts and has explicitly allowed mandates to remain in place.

    “The Court did not comment on why they declined cert. However, it is worth noting that the Court declined cert in Dr. A v. Hochul June 30 for the second time (the first was on December 13, 2021). The Court has also declined to grant injunctions halting New York’s vaccine mandate from being enforced while litigation plays out.”

White noted that she expects “more of the same” in the coming months: “religious-based challenges playing out in lower courts.”

* “Gracias AMLO — Free Assange” * Tlaib “Breakthrough” on Espionage Act

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File:Free Assange Now.jpg

ANN WILCOX, ann1.wilcox@gmail.com, @assangeactionDC  NATHAN FULLER, nathan.fuller@couragefound.org, @couragefound

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is scheduled to meet with Biden in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. He recently stated regarding the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Jullian Assange: “If they take him to the United States and he is sentenced to the maximum penalty and to die in prison, we must start a campaign to tear down the Statue of Liberty.”
Wilcox is with DC Action for Assange, which is delivering a letter of appreciation to the Mexican embassy on Tuesday from Assange Defense, an umbrella of press freedom and civil liberties groups. The letter states: “We agree with you that the prosecution of Mr. Assange for publishing is a profound threat to journalism around the world.” They will be carrying “Gracias AMLO — Free Assange” signage.

Fuller, who directs Assange Defense at the Courage Foundation in New York described the broad national coalition that has called on the Biden administration to end the prosecution of Mr. Assange, who turned 51 in Belmarsh prison in London last week. “Professional journalists, their unions and editors, constitutional scholars and lawyers, human rights activists on the left and libertarians on the right — we all agree that the persecution of Julian and the prosecution that the Department of Justice inherited from the Trump administration undermine the First Amendment.”
CHIP GIBBONS, chip@RightsAndDissent.org, @rightsdissent

Gibbons is policy director for Defending Rights & Dissent. The group recently released a statement: “Tlaib Espionage Act Reform Would be Major Breakthrough for Press Freedom and Transparency.” The amendment is scheduled to be before the House Rules Committee Tuesday.

The group states: “Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) has introduced an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which would amend the Espionage Act of 1917 to increase civil rights, civil liberties, and due process protections in the law. Rep. Tlaib’s amendment targets a number of Constitutional defects identified by legal scholars and press freedom advocates which encourage prosecutorial abuse and prevent the possibility of a proper defense at trial.”

Daniel Ellsberg, famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower, said: “For half a century, starting with my own prosecution, no whistleblower charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 has had, or could have, a fair trial. These long-overdue amendments would remedy that injustice, protect the First Amendment freedom of the press, and encourage vitally-needed truth-telling.”

Defending Rights & Dissent said: “Espionage Act prosecutions of journalists’ sources were once rare, but under the Obama administration they became the go-to weapon against national security whistleblowers. Under the Trump administration, the law was charged for the first time against a publisher, in the case of Julian Assange. Nearly every press freedom group has warned of the dangerous precedent that would be set in prosecuting Assange for Espionage.”

Gibbons added: “Rep. Tlaib’s amendment is the boldest, most comprehensive effort we’ve seen yet. It would truly limit the Espionage Act to the prosecution of spies, not journalists, not their sources, and restore basic principles of due process in the event the government did take someone to trial.”

Biden’s Trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia: “Hypocrisy on Display”

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File:Palestine solidarity protest (38272721154).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

MAZIN QUMSIYEH, mazin@qumsiyeh.org
Biden’s trip includes a stop in Bethlehem. Qumsiyeh is a professor at Bethlehem University. His books include Sharing the Land of Canaan. He is founding director of the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability. He highlights how U.S. policy is “hypocrisy on display” with Biden’s trip: While it professes stability, its militarism and weapons have destabilized the region. While it professes freedom and peace, it has backed Israel in its oppression of Palesitnians, killings and violations of international law.

RAJI SOURANI, pchr@pchrgaza.org, @pchrgaza

Sourani is executive director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, which Israel bombed extensively last year. He is a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award. The group’s recent statements include: “U.S. Investigation into Killing of Journalist Shireen Abu ‘Akleh Attempts to Mislead Justice and Its findings not Binding,” “Israeli Occupation Forces Kill Palestinian Child in Ramallah,” “Medical Neglect Kills Palestinian Woman Detained in Israeli Prisons” and “Cancer Patient Dies After Israeli Authorities Deny His Travel for Treatment Abroad.”

SAREE MAKDISI, makdisi@humnet.ucla.edu, @sareemakdisi
Makdisi’s books include Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation and the just-released Tolerance Is a Wasteland: Palestine and the Culture of Denial. He is professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA. His pieces include “Apartheid” for Critical Inquiry. Last year he wrote the piece “The Nakba Is Now” for The Nation. He notes the disparity between the U.S. media and establishment glorifying Ukrainians fighting against Russians while Palestinians struggling against a U.S.-backed Israeli military occupation for decades have been demonized, or — at best — tolerated.

MOUIN RABBANI, mail@mouinrabbani.net, @mouinrabbani
Rabbani is co-editor of Jadaliyya. He recently appeared on “Democracy Now!” and stated: “It seems to me fairly self-evident that what Antony Blinken and other U.S. officials told the Palestinian leadership is that unless you hand over the bullet that killed Shireen Abu Akleh and allow us to put this matter to rest by essentially saying that no conclusion can be reached, we’re not going to throw you the bone of a presidential visit to the Palestinian Authority leadership. And that’s essentially what happened.”

Background: See recent IPA news release: “Biden’s Saudi Trip: For Cheaper Gas — or for Israel?

See video from the Quincy Institute: “President Biden walks in Trump’s footsteps in Saudi Arabia & Israel this week.”

See from Forbes: “Biden’s Mideast Agenda Could Increase the Risks of War.”

Biden Mideast Trip Doubles Down on Trump Policies, Further Militarizes Region

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DAVID YAGHOUBIAN, dny@csusb.eduYaghoubian is professor of history at California State University San Bernardino, co-editor of Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East and author of Ethnicity, Identity, and the Development of Nationalism in Iran.

He said today: “Amidst an arguably self-imposed global energy crisis propelled by U.S.-promoted sanctions on some of the world’s largest oil producers — Iran, Venezuela, and Russia — and facing unprecedented low domestic approval ratings, President Joe Biden has controversially tacked a visit to Saudi Arabia on to a scheduled trip to Israel and the West Bank (July 13-16) despite poll data showing that fewer than one quarter of Americans support it. The president’s plan to speak before the GCC+3 conference in Jeddah has been explained in an optimistic Washington Post op-ed as an opportunity to ‘reset’ Saudi-U.S. relations which (publicly) languish after candidate Biden had described the country as a ‘pariah’ in the wake of the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. In conjunction with his first trip to Israel, a country with which U.S. relations had been proclaimed by the mainstream media in February of 2021 to be in ‘reset’ due to President-elect Biden’s refusal to telephone then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden’s op-ed asserts that these meetings will ‘start a new and more promising chapter of America’s engagement’ in the region, promote security, and advance American interests.
“Unfortunately, the president’s revised itinerary and agenda seems geared solely towards returning U.S.-Israeli and U.S.-Saudi relations to the Trump-era status quo. Beyond what will likely be an unsuccessful attempt to pressure or entice Saudi Arabia to increase its oil output to help lower increasing energy prices, Biden will be negotiating Saudi acquisition of precision-guided munitions and anti-ballistic missile systems from the United States and Israel, and promoting closer Arab security cooperation with Israel, including a U.S.-led unified air defense network. Accordingly, Biden’s upcoming trip to the region promises no tangible benefit to the United States outside of potential new weapons sales while serving to legitimize the policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and the current caretaker government of apartheid Israel.”

Background: See recent IPA news release: “Biden’s Saudi Trip: For Cheaper Gas — or for Israel?

See video from the Quincy Institute: “President Biden walks in Trump’s footsteps in Saudi Arabia & Israel this week.”

See from Forbes: “Biden’s Mideast Agenda Could Increase the Risks of War.”

Israel Shields Alleged Killers of U.S. Citizen, U.S. Gov. Goes Along — for Decades

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Alex Odeh

Al Jazeera reports: “Biden appears to have rejected a request by Shireen Abu Akleh’s family to meet with him during his visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank this week, as pressure mounts on the United States to ensure accountability for the journalist’s killing by Israeli forces.”

But Abu Akleh is hardly the first U.S. citizen that the Israeli military has killed. The Intercept just published the piece “No Path to Justice: Israeli Forces Keep Killing Americans While U.S. Officials Give Them a Pass” about peace activist Rachel Corrie who was crushed to death by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer in 2003.

DAVID SHEEN, realdavidsheen@gmail.com@davidsheen

An independent journalist, Sheen just wrote a pair of pieces: “Alex Odeh Assassination: New Testimony Could Finally Bring Jewish Defense League to Justice” and “As U.S. Refuses to Act, Suspected Alex Odeh Assassins Enjoy Influential Role in Israeli Politics” for MintPress.

He writes: “Palestinian-American activist Alex Odeh was brutally murdered in public. Odeh, the regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), was killed when a bomb exploded as he entered the ADC’s Santa Ana, California offices on October 11, 1985.
“It is widely believed that the culprits were Robert Manning, Keith Israel Fuchs, and Baruch Ben Yosef (also known as Andy Green). The trio were members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a Jewish supremacist domestic terrorist group that had repeatedly harassed and threatened Odeh. From 1984 until his death in 2002, the group was led by the notorious militant Irv Rubin. Manning is currently serving life in prison for the murder of another individual. Fuchs and Ben Yosef, however, fled to Israel and live there freely to this day.“Law enforcement officials told me that the FBI has always considered the three men its top suspects. But despite significant evidence of the trio’s guilt, the bureau has never pressed for charges. Many have alleged high government interference. According to active agents still assigned to the case, pressing charges against Manning, Fuchs, and Ben Yosef would require testimony from a witness who heard at least one of those very men discussing their own involvement in Alex Odeh’s murder.“We now have it.”

Sheen reports that he has interviewed a former assocate of Ben Yosef and Fuchs who is willing to testify as to their guilt of the murder of Odeh. But the FBI has yet to question this individual.

Sheen traces the lack of prosecution to decisions taken initially by Rudy Giuliani (who was District Attorney of the Southern District of New York following Odeh’s murder when Fuchs and Ben Yosef were in New York) — and, in the years since, to the State Department.

He also notes that Ben Yosef and Fuchs have groomed two far right successors who entered the Israeli Knesset in March 2021 — Itamar Ben Gvir and Simcha Rothman.

Sheen also states that “since the Jerusalem Post’s February 1994 profile … titled “Apocalypse Now” — no Israeli news outlets have noted that terrorist-turned-attorney Baruch Ben Yosef and two of his Kahanist comrades are suspected of murder in the United States.”

* Israel’s Nukes * Israel-Saudi Alliance: “Militarism and Authoritarianism”

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GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith@irmep.org@IRmepBiden on Israeli TV threatened to use force against Iran, allegedly to prevent it from getting a nuclear weapon, as a “last resort.” But Biden has not re-instated the Iran nuclear deal which Trump withdrew from. Smith is director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. He has written extenstively on Israel’s nuclear weapons which Biden has refused to acknowledge. Smith’s work was cited in the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s last published piece: “Joe Biden should end the U.S. pretence over Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear weapons.”

RULA JEBREAL, jebreal.rula@gmail.com@rulajebreal

Jebreal is visiting professor at the University of Miami, an author and noted foreign policy analyst. She just arrived in New York City from the Mideast. She said today: “There are many layers of the Israel-Saudi alliance — and the U.S. government role in forging it. It’s mainly based around militarism and authoritarianism. It’s a bloody legacy of ‘shared values’ — Israel’s ‘unbreakable bond’ with the U.S. means that Biden will ignore international law and commits to unconditional support to Israel’s occupation. The leader of the free world is enabling militarism by working to forge a NATO-like entity for the authoritarian Gulf states, binding Americans to protect the world’s most corrupt despots and apartheid Israel.”

Background: See from last month in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “Thanks to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s Recognition of Israel Is Now Inevitable.”

The New York Times reported in 2021: “Israel secretly authorized a group of cyber-surveillance firms to work for the government of Saudi Arabia despite international condemnation of the kingdom’s abuse of surveillance software to crush dissent, even after the Saudi killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, government officials and others familiar with the contracts said.”

IPA news release from 2020: “Protesting Trump’s Israeli-Gulf ‘Fake Peace’ Deals.”

See “Saudi Arabia’s Unholy Alliance with Israel” — video and transcript — of The Real News interview from 2018 with scholar As’ad AbuKhalil who gives a history of Israel-Saudi collusion going back at least to the first Yemen war of the 1960s.

See from 2015 by Robert Parry “Did Money Seal Israeli-Saudi Alliance?

In 1955, the U.S. government tried to establish an effective southern flank of NATO called CENTO, also known as the Baghdad Pact. The organization became largely moribund in 1959 following the overthrow of the U.S.-backed monarch in Iraq and collapsed altogether in 1979 when the U.S.-backed Shah was ousted in Iran.

Saudi War on Yemen: Is Congress Finally Ending U.S. Support?

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Stop the War in Yemen ! | After over one thousand days into … | Flickr

CommonDreams reports in Sanders Unveils Resolution to End U.S. Support for ‘Catastrophic’ Saudi-Led War in Yemen“: “Congress abdicated its constitutional powers and failed to prevent our country from involving itself in this crisis,” ‘said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a lead co-sponsor with Sen. Patrick Leahy.’

“As U.S. President Joe Biden visits the Middle East this week, three senators introduced a joint resolution to end the United States’ involvement in the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

“The resolution is sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — and, according to the trio, it is already backed by a bipartisan group of over 100 House members.“‘We must put an end to the unauthorized and unconstitutional involvement of U.S. armed forces in the catastrophic Saudi-led war in Yemen and Congress must take back its authority over war,’ Sanders said in a statement, detailing the dire conditions in the region.“‘More than 85,000 children in Yemen have already starved and millions more are facing imminent famine and death,’ he pointed out. ‘More than 70 percent of Yemen’s population currently rely on humanitarian food assistance and the U.N. has warned the death toll could climb to 1.3 million people by 2030.’“‘This war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis today and it is past time to end U.S. complicity in those horrors,’ Sanders declared. ‘Let us pass this resolution, so we can focus on diplomacy to end this war.’“While a cease-fire in Yemen has held over the past few months, peace advocates and progressive lawmakers have continued to call for an end to U.S. support for the yearslong war.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv@gmail.com, @voiceinwild

Kelly, a peace activist and author, co-coordinates the Ban Killer Drones campaign and is board president of World Beyond War. She recently wrote for The Progressive: “It seems that [Biden’s] trip will not include Yemen, though if this were truly a ‘sensitive’ visit, he would be stopping at one of Yemen’s many beleaguered refugee camps. There he could listen to people displaced by war, some of whom are shell-shocked from years of bombardment. He could hear the stories of bereaved parents and orphaned children, and then express true remorse for the complicity of the United States in the brutal aerial attacks and starvation blockade imposed on Yemen for the past eight years.
“From the vantage point of a Yemeni refugee camp, Biden could insist that no country, including his own, has a right to invade another land and attempt to bomb its people into submission. He could uphold the value of the newly extended truce between the region’s warring parties, allowing Yemenis a breather from the tortuous years of war, and then urge ceasefires and settlements to resolve all militarized disputes, including Russia’s war in Ukraine. He could beg for a new way forward, seeking political will, universally, for disarmament and a peaceful, multipolar world. “More than 150,000 people have been killed in the war in Yemen, 14,500 of whom were civilians. But the death toll from militarily imposed poverty has been immeasurably higher. The war has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, creating an unprecedented level of hunger in Yemen, where millions of people face severe hardship.“Some 17.4 million Yemenis are food insecure; by December 2022, the projected number of hungry people will likely rise to nineteen million. The rate of child malnutrition is one of the highest in the world, and nutrition continues to deteriorate.”

The Future of Covid Vaccines as FDA Provides Emergency OK for Novavax

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On Wednesday, the FDA granted emergency use authorization to the Novavax vaccine, a two-dose series manufactured using older, protein-based vaccine technology. So far, it is authorized for people 18 and over, “meaning the shot is intended for the roughly 10 percent of adults who have not yet received a Covid-19 vaccine.” Experts hope the shot’s more traditional technology will help persuade ‘vaccine hesitant’ individuals to get vaccinated, providing an alternative to the mRNA vaccines that have dominated the U.S. vaccination program in the past 18 months. The CDC has yet to recommend the vaccine; its expert committee will convene on July 19. 

Gavi, the international vaccine alliance, notes that Novavax has the “additional benefit of being stable at refrigerated temperatures, making it easier to transport and store in low-income settings.” This could make the vaccine a game-changer for low-income countries where the vast majority of the population has yet to receive even a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. “Expanding the choice of vaccines,” says a Gavi statement, “particularly those based on an established technology with a good safety record, could also help drive vaccine acceptance.”

In the U.S., the future of other vaccines is in flux as the BA.5 variant overtakes other Omicron variants to become the dominant strain. Eric Topol, who has written that the sub-variant BA.5 is the “worst version of the virus that we’ve seen,” notes that the “big question now is whether an Omicron booster, directed to BA.1, will help when that variant is no longer with us.” Topol’s recent posts have “tried to hammer home the imperative of next-generation vaccines.” 

The FDA has already announced that fall booster shots that will target Omicron variants will include components from BA.4 and BA.5 as well as the original formula of the vaccine. In addition, at the end of June, BioNTech and Pfizer announced they would begin tests of next-generation shots that protect against a variety of coronaviruses. But Topol writes that “frustration keeps mounting as we now confront unsatisfactory deliberations on variant chasing.” 

ELIZABETH WRIGLEY-FIELD; ewf@umn.edu
    Wrigley-Field is a sociologist and demographer specializing in mortality, racial inequality, and historical infectious disease at the University of Minnesota

Wrigley-Field writes that we have squandered “every opportunity that’s not aimed at drug development” during the course of the Covid pandemic. 

Wrigley-Field spoke with the Institute for Public Accuracy, saying that “pandemic mitigation strategies have narrowed to just one––vaccination.” Meanwhile, “we have also narrowed the approach to vaccination itself. Most mass vaccination sites have closed and many community campaigns have ended. Yet booster rates remain quite low, and many people might be willing to get a booster if it were offered in a convenient way. It’s particularly striking that there are almost no avenues, outside of individual conversations with one’s own medical providers, to ask questions or have conversations about vaccination. This highly individualized approach is based on a cynical and incorrect assumption that people who remain unvaccinated or unboosted have made a permanent decision to stay that way. Yet the relatively few community campaigns that continue show that this is wrong––even in 2022, there are still many people who can be reached.”

Wrigley-Field adds: “My recent research (with collaborators) shows that the pandemic remains highly unequal in ways that transcend vaccination rates. In Minnesota––one of the very few places where vaccination data are reported by race/ethnicity and age together––we can see that, at all younger-than-elderly ages, people of color are more likely to be vaccinated than white people are. Yet white people still die of Covid at lower rates than every other racial/ethnic group does. Vaccines protect, but they are not enough. The current context may be a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ but it is very much still a ‘pandemic of the disadvantaged’ as well.”

#DontRunJoe

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Politico recently reported on a new campaign: “Progressive group to press Biden not to run in 2024.” The effort — DontRunJoe.org — comes from RootsAction. It is, writes Politico, the “latest sign of unrest among Democrats about Biden, whose job approval rating has cratered during a punishing midterm election year. RootsAction, with an email list of about 1.2 million people in the United States, said it plans to spend six figures on a ‘#DontRunJoe‘ campaign, with digital ads starting in early nominating states on Nov. 9, one day after the midterm elections.”Pia Gallegos, who chairs the RootsAction board and co-founded the Adelante Progressive Caucus of the New Mexico Democratic Party, said: ”We need a president with the vision, courage and power to achieve voting rights, a rapid transition to renewable energy, universal health care, access to abortion in all states, and controls on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. … President Biden has not shown himself to be the president we need.”JEFF COHEN, jeff@rootsaction.org,  @jeffcot@Roots_Action

Cohen is an author, media critic, and co-founder of RootsAction.He said: “The current debate over whether Biden should run again focuses too narrowly on his age and the latest polls. It’s his performance — his inability to fight for working people and stand up against Republican and corporate obstruction — that has us worried about 2024.”

The strategy of the #DontRunJoe campaign is explained in the FAQ section of DontRunJoe.org.

Biden Won’t Stop Drilling and Fracking on Federal Lands

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President Biden addresses climate today in Massachusetts.

SETH GLADSTONE, sgladstone@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Gladstone is media director at Food & Water Watch. He said today: “Evidence from the last decade clearly shows that promoting cleaner energy while still advancing new fossil fuel projects will not reduce climate pollution.” See report from the group: “Averting Climate Catastrophe: Fossil Fuels Must End While Renewables Take Over.”

He said today: “Biden stated repeatedly and unequivocally that upon taking office he would halt all new leases for drilling and fracking on federal lands. This action does NOT require the declaration of a climate emergency. He could have done it on day one. Instead, he allowed new leasing and permitting of drilling and fracking at even a higher rate than under the Trump administration over the same period.”

The group’s recent report recommends:

* “President Biden should use his authority to stop fossil fuel extraction on federal lands.

* “President Biden should use his authority to stop the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, including LNG [liquefied natural gas] exports, by denying the needed federal permits.
* “Congress should ban fracking everywhere.

* “Congress should pass legislation laying out a managed transition off fossil fuels that protects workers and communities that have depended on the industry.”

“AIPAC Has Taken Over the Democratic Primary Process”

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NASA Future Forum (201108110005HQ) | U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards… | Flickr

The Washington Post and the Intercept report on how AIPAC spinoffs such as a group calling itself the “United Democracy Project” spent over $7 million flooding airwaves to defeat Donna Edwards’ congressional bid on Tuesday. Edwards went to Gaza in 2009, a rarity for members of Congress who often visit Israel.

The American Prospect recently reported in “AIPAC Has Taken Over the Democratic Primary Process” that: “AIPAC’s role in Democratic elections has changed drastically in just a handful of months. For many years, the group claimed to be a bipartisan entity, and didn’t officially endorse candidates. Until this election cycle, the group didn’t even have a super PAC; now, it’s on pace to spend nearly $20 million in the 2022 Democratic primary cycle alone, making it by far the most influential individual political group in Democratic electoral politics.”

AIPAC is now targeting Rep. Andy Levin whose primary is on Aug. 2. See from the American Prospect: “Will AIPAC Crush One of Congress’s Most Prominent Jewish Democrats?” — which notes: “Former union organizer and synagogue president Andy Levin is being challenged by AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups, largely over his progressive views.” Also see the piece “‘Anti-Israel’ and ‘Pro-Israel’ in Michigan Election” in Tikkun magazine on Levin.

The Prospect also notes a series of other races where rightwing AIPAC money was crucial this year: “The $2 million-plus that UDP poured into North Carolina’s First District resulted in an easy victory for anti-choice candidate Don Davis; $2.1 million pushed conservative Valerie Foushee over the finish line in NC-04; $2 million almost certainly made the difference in Texas’s 28th, where conservative Henry Cuellar squeaked past Jessica Cisneros by fewer than 300 votes; $2.7 million on behalf of Steve Irwin nearly closed a 25-point polling gap in Pennsylvania’s 12th District, as he lost by the narrowest of margins to progressive Summer Lee.”

The piece notes that the Democratic Party establishment has remained silent on AIPAC’s targeting: “If Pelosi doesn’t speak up soon, she might be targeted herself.”

Also see “Strong support for Israel is no longer ‘good politics’ in Michigan — Arraf poll shows” about the candidacy of activist Huweida Arraf and “Israel lobby flexes its millions to defeat Nina Turner again in Cleveland” in Mondoweiss.

But the flood of ads attacking Edwards don’t actually mention Israel, rather they claim that she had poor constituent services, a charge that The Intercept reports has been “rebuked” by elected officials, labor leaders and constituents supporting Edwards.

Researchers Learning More About the Neurological Effects of Long Covid

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released data showing that nearly one in five people experience symptoms of Covid more than three months after their initial infection, adding to an array of studies that struggle to pinpoint exact rates of long Covid in the U.S. population. Most studies have placed the rate somewhere between 10% and 25% of all people infected with the virus.

Since the first reports of long Covid in 2020, cognitive dysfunction and “brain fog” have been considered to be commonly agreed-upon symptoms. But how the virus interferes with brain function is still mainly a mystery. Recent research, however, is shedding light on what may trigger these symptoms and how these processes may relate to other neurodegenerative diseases.

NICHOLAS REYNOLDS; nicholas.reynolds@latrobe.edu.au 
    Reynolds is a fellow at the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science and the co-author of an article on neurological symptoms of Covid-19, published in Nature Connections.

Reynolds’ article notes that although neurological symptoms are reported in many cases of Covid-19, researchers do not understand “the molecular mechanisms triggering… neurological symptoms.” The effects of the virus share some features of neurodegenerative diseases. Reynolds’ team identified two peptides among those expressed by the SARS-Co-V-2 virus that assemble into amyloids that are toxic to neuronal cells in the brain.

Reynolds told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that the virus “readily form[s] aggregated protein clumps that look very similar to amyloid deposits seen in the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But much more work needs to be done to see if these amyloid deposits are detected in tissue samples or bodily fluids from Covid positive people.”

Reynolds’ team noted that “some of the ‘brain-fog’ type symptoms are similar to some early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid protein buildup is almost certainly at least partly responsible for some of these symptoms in Alzheimer’s, therefore the fact that we have shown that SARS-CoV-2 has protein fragments that are capable of making similar amyloids means that it is vitally important that the medical [and] scientific community perform further research to determine if these amyloid deposits could be causing the brain fog symptoms in Covid-19 and long Covid.

    “As the connections between neurodegenerative disease, Covid-19 and neuroinflammation are becoming more apparent, interest in the field is growing. Around the same time as our paper in Nature Communications was published, [a similar paper was published] showing that products of the spike protein are capable of forming amyloids, and they also hypothesized that these may be related to long Covid.”

Reynolds states that outstanding questions remain. Researchers must first investigate whether amyloid deposits are observed in Covid-19 patients; if so, they would be able to begin “looking at the possibility of re-purposing ‘anti-amyloid’ therapies that have been developed to treat neurodegenerative diseases to combat the neurological symptoms of long [Covid].” As humans are repeatedly exposed to the virus in the coming months and years, it will also remain paramount to continue studying the virus and its behavior––including why the virus may produce amyloids during its viral replication cycle, since it “gains no benefit from killing brain cells.” Reynolds says: “The better we understand how the virus works on a molecular level, the better we can design antiviral therapies or vaccines.”

Earlier this year, a very small study out of Columbia University found that people who died of Covid-19 display “some of the same molecular changes found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.” At the time, the study’s lead researcher said that “one interpretation of these findings is that long [Covid] could be an atypical form of Alzheimer’s and/or that patients who had severe [Covid] could be predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s later in life… but much more research needs to be done before we can make more definitive conclusions.”

Data from Denmark have also shown that Covid outpatients are at increased risk of certain neurodegenerative disorders

Democrats Keeping Greens Off Ballot in North Carolina

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The Raleigh News & Observer recently reported: “Green Party sues NC elections board for keeping its candidates off the ballot.”

OLIVER HALL, oliverhall@competitivedemocracy.org, @voterchoiceHall is legal counsel for the Center for Competitive Democracy and just filed a memorandum for an emergency motion in the case. The motion states: “This case arises from an extraordinary set of facts. At all times relevant to this matter, there has been no genuine dispute between the parties that Plaintiff North Carolina Green Party (‘NCGP’) has timely complied with all applicable state law requirements to qualify as a new political party.

“Defendant North Carolina State Board of Elections (‘NCSBE’) nonetheless declined to certify NCGP as a new political party ‘forthwith’ as it is required to do under” the law.

Hall continues: “NCSBE has cited no legal authority for its failure to certify NCGP as a new political party. NCSBE has cited no applicable statutory provision, regulation or other legal requirement with which NCGP failed to comply. On the contrary, NCSBE concedes that when it voted not to certify NCGP, county boards of elections had validated 15,953 signatures on NCGP’s petitions — 2,088 more than the 13,865 valid signatures required under state law.

“Thus far, the only explanation NCSBE has given for its failure to certify NCGP comes from its chair, Defendant Circosta, who stated that he had too many ‘questions’ to vote in favor of certification, because NCSBE staff claim to be investigating ‘irregularities’ in the NCGP petitions.

“NCSBE has never produced evidence of any ‘irregularities’ in NCGP’s petitions. … Yet NCSBE appears to have undertaken a wide-ranging investigation into NCGP’s petitions, pursuant to which a team of NCSBE investigators has contacted NCGP’s petition circulators by telephone and email to request information about virtually every aspect of their petitioning efforts.”

The Democratic Party has texted people who signed the Green Party petition asking them to withdraw their names — even the Green Party candidate for Senator, Matthew Hoh; see his tweet. Disclosure: Hoh is a board member of the Institute for Public Accuracy. See the piece “The Democrats’ Third-Party Massacres” on Counterpunch.

AIPAC Targeting Pro-Israeli Jewish Congressman

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The American Prospect recently reported: “Will AIPAC Crush One of Congress’s Most Prominent Jewish Democrats?

The targeted congressman, Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), tells MSNBC: “I’m not just Jewish, I’m one of two former synagogue presidents in Congress. … AIPAC has completely gone off the rails and they are trying to end my career because I won’t fall in line with their view of what it means to be pro-Israel.”

RONALD ARONSON, ronald.aronson@wayne.eduAronson is distinguished professor emeritus of the history of ideas at Wayne State University in Detroit. He recently wrote the piece “‘Anti-Israel’ and ‘Pro-Israel’ in Michigan Election” in Tikkun magazine about AIPAC’s targeting of Levin, whose primary is on Aug. 2.

Aronson explains AIPAC’s targeting: “The main reason is Levin’s Two-State Solution Act, which he presented to Congress after the High Holidays in September, flanked by Peace Now’s Hadar Susskind and J-Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. With no negotiations taking place since the ill-fated efforts of John Kerry, and with the Israeli colonization of the West Bank proceeding relentlessly, the two-state solution has been abandoned virtually everywhere except as a shibboleth to which lip service must be given to undercut accusations of ‘apartheid.’ In the face of these realities Levin, J-Street, and Americans for Peace Now, along with over 40 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives seek to reassert the two-state solution as active American policy.”

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052@gmail.com, @richards1052   Silverstein writes at Tikun Olam and recently wrote the in-depth overview piece “AIPAC Astroturf Groups Plow Millions into Defeating Progressive Democrats.” He was featured on IPA news releases on AIPAC’s successful targeting of Donna Edwards and another titled “AIPAC Has Taken Over the Democratic Primary Process.” He also contributes to Middle East Eye, Jacobin magazine and other outlets.

Amazon Acquires One Medical, Expanding the Company’s “Data-opoly”

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Amazon announced last week it would buy primary health care provider One Medical for nearly $4 billion. One Medical is a private concierge service provider whose purchase by Amazon marks both the company’s next move into the healthcare space as well as a major new source of digital health data for Amazon.

MAURICE STUCKE; mstucke@utk.edu 
   Stucke is a professor of antitrust and privacy law. This year, he authored Breaking Away: How to Regain Control Over Our Data, Privacy, and Autonomy, and How Big-Tech Barons Smash Innovation––and How to Strike Back. 

Stucke told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: Companies like Amazon are “not just dominant platforms. They control an ecosystem––a series of interconnected platforms––and that’s an important distinction. If apps are worth millions and platforms are worth billions, ecosystems are quasi-sovereigns. The amount of data that travels through these ecosystems is unparalleled. You have the majority of digital advertising spending controlled by three firms: Google, Facebook, and Amazon. The concern here is not that they’re getting the same data but more of it; the concern is that they’re getting another important piece of us.

    “In Breaking Away, I explain how the only way that these firms can continue to generate the revenues and profits that are based in their market valuation is by expanding their ecosystem. One of the areas they can expand to make their revenue projects is health care––because it’s a significant percentage of our GDP.

    “With the move into wearable technology, for instance, there are a lot of positive upsides and scientific breakthroughs that will be made possible through the collection of this health data. But the underlying incentives of the ecosystem [are not aligned] with our incentives. These companies rely on behavioral advertising collected about us but not necessarily for our benefit. There is a shift here from third party to first party data, and those who can collect data directly will have more power. To the extent that our laws remain the same, these companies can have an advantage in behavioral advertising as well. 

    “Users are having some successes: Apple is making it harder to be tracked across apps, and California’s new privacy law prevents ‘cross-context behavioral advertising,’ which allows them to opt-out of behavioral ads based on data collected from third parties. 

Stucke also pointed out, alongside other critics, the privacy implications of these sorts of mergers in a post-Roe world. “After the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs,” Stucke said, “Google said that they won’t collect data on people visiting an abortion clinic. But there is so much other data out there, that they don’t need geolocation data.

    “Current antitrust tools aren’t well addressed to these kinds of data-driven mergers.” The U.S. has not yet followed step with countries like Germany, the U.K., and Australia, which are updating their antitrust laws. But Stucke says there is hope yet. “The good news,” he said today, “is that Congress has proposed a series of bipartisan antitrust bills, all emerging from the House Judiciary Committee, that are just sitting in Congress. And the Senate has companion bills with bipartisan support that are also just sitting there.” Those bills are a “necessary but not sufficient precondition to address these types of mergers that fortify the power of these companies.” 

Stucke also says that Americans need “robust privacy protections. Until we address the problems of behavioral advertising, there will always be these issues. We could break up Facebook but still have TikTok. Behavioral advertising is the source of the problem. It’s no longer just about predicting behavior but manipulating emotions and behavior. With comprehensive privacy legislation that really targets behavioral advertising, and antitrust legislation, we will be able to rein in and help prevent these mergers from happening. It’s not all dark: once the incentives are aligned, we can actually use data to help address health issues to our benefit.”

Big Tech’s “Corporate Welfare” and $1 Trillion Spent on Stock Buybacks

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The New York Times reports in “