Virgin Islands AG Who Litigated Against Jeffrey Epstein and JPMorgan Is Fired

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MARLON ETTINGER, marlonjettinger@gmail.com, @MarlonEttinger
Ettinger just wrote the piece “Virgin Islands Attorney General Who Pursued Litigation Against Jeffrey Epstein Fired.” He covered the Ghislaine Maxwell trial and is working on a book about it.

U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan George released a statement Sunday night confirming that Attorney General Denise George was out as the territory’s top law enforcement position, reported the St. Thomas Source on Jan. 1.

Ettinger notes: “About a week ago, George filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase Bank, alleging that the financial institution had essentially served as a bank for Epstein’s criminal human trafficking enterprise.”

The suit [PDF], which has extensive redactions, charges: “In addition to having actual knowledge that it was participating in and facilitating the Epstein sex-trafficking venture, JPMorgan also knew that it was participating in and facilitating a venture that was engaged in coercive sex trafficking.”

Ettinger adds: “A month ago, the Virgin Islands government settled a $105 million civil suit against Epstein’s estate. I reported on that lawsuit here, where government prosecutors alleged that Epstein’s estate, led by its executors, lawyer Darren Indyke and accountant Richard Kahn (long time fixers for Epstein) hid money from the government, including by wiring money to a web of shell accounts opened in Indyke and Kahn’s spouses’ names.”

The Virgin Islands Daily News reports: “Former first lady Cecile de Jongh served as office manager at Epstein’s St. Thomas-based Southern Trust Company for 20 years. Bryan was serving as chairman of the Economic Development Commission at the time under deJongh’s husband, former Gov. John deJongh Jr., and signed off on the most recent certificate for Southern Trust in 2014, granting Epstein a 90 percent exemption from V.I. income taxes and a 100 percent exemption from gross receipts and excise taxes.”

See prior IPA news releases including “Maxwell Sentenced to 20 Years for Conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein: Will Powerful Men be Held Accountable?”

See recent interview with Whitney Webb, author of One Nation Under Blackmail: The Sordid Union Between Intelligence and Crime That Gave Rise to Jeffrey Epstein.

* New Israeli Government * Hakeem Jeffries’ AIPAC Funding

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RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052@gmail.com, @richards1052

    Silverstein writes at Tikun Olam and recently wrote the pieces Judeo-Fascist Coalition Affirms ‘Inalienable Right’ of Jewish People to ‘All the Land of Israel’” and “Israeli ‘Arsonist,’ Ben Gvir, Stirs Outrage with Haram al Sharif ‘Visit.’
 
    Silverstein quotes Jewish Voice for Peace: “The new Israeli government has been clear about its agenda from the beginning: ensure Jewish supremacy over all land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and expedite the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”
 

    Silverstein has written about AIPAC and related groups playing a critical role in the Democratic Party over the last year, noting: “Its own PAC and those affiliated with it spent over $30 million to defeat progressive Democrats in primary elections, who voiced even the slightest disagreement with Israeli policies.” Silverstein wrote pieces such as “AIPAC Astroturf Groups Plow Millions into Defeating Progressive Democrats.”

 
    New House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is an outspoken advocate for Israel. According to Open Secrets, three of his top five contributors — Pro-Israel America PAC, NorPAC and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — are pro-Israeli government. See 2021 profile piece on Jeffries, which notes his extremely pro-Israeli government views, from The American Prospect

* Brazil * Pentagon Lied About Killing Civilians in Afghanistan with Drone Strikes

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MIKE ELK, mike.elk@gmail.com, @MikeElk
Elk is senior labor reporter at Payday Report. He just wrote the piece “UPDATES & VIDEOS: Bolsonaro Supporters Attack Brazilian Capital.” He recently spent two and half months in Brazil, filing 16 stories from Brazil on the presidential elections.

Building on a recent New York Times investigation, Antiwar.com is reporting: “Pentagon Doc Reveals U.S. Lied About Afghan Civilians Killed in 2021 Drone Strike.” “U.S. military officials knew that an August 2021 drone strike in Kabul likely killed Afghan civilians including children but lied about it, a report published Friday revealed.”

KATHY KELLY, NICK MOTTERN, nickmottern@gmail.com, @voiceinwild
Kelly and Mottern are co-coordinators of BanKillerDrones.org. Kelly said today: “New York Times reporter Azmat Khan, and her newspaper, deserve praise for forcing the release of Pentagon documents about the drone attack that killed seven children and three adults in the Ahmadi family. But, unfortunately these documents do not completely explain why ‘the intelligence community’ led military commanders to authorize the devastating attack against Zemari Ahmadi, an employee of a U.S.-based nonprofit providing food assistance to the Afghan people.”

“Don’t Run Joe” Billboard at White House and Capitol

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SAM ROSENTHAL,  sam@rootsaction.org,  @Roots_Action
A large billboard urging President Biden not to run for re-election has begun appearing in front of the White House and the Capitol this week.

Following up on a 60-second TV ad that aired on CNN in Washington last week, the Don’t Run Joe campaign is now shuttling the mobile billboard – which reads “Most Democrats Say: Don’t Run Joe” — between 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill. Photos of the billboard in front of the White House and elsewhere in Washington are posted here.

“We strongly urge President Biden to announce that he won’t seek re-nomination,” said Sam Rosenthal, political director of RootsAction, the progressive group sponsoring Don’t Run Joe.

Don’t Run Joe television ads have appeared in recent weeks on the statewide ABC affiliate in New Hampshire, and on MSNBC and CNN in Georgia, Michigan and South Carolina — states that are expected to hold early primaries for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The stepped-up advertising comes in the wake of recent polls by CNBC and CNN showing that nearly 60 percent of Democrats nationwide do not want Biden to be the party nominee in 2024.

“Our ideas are way more popular than Joe Biden is,” one voter says in the TV ad, which is introduced as “a message from Democratic voters.” Another speaker declares that “Joe Biden representing the status quo in 2024 simply won’t cut it.” A third voter warns in the ad that “we can’t afford to risk the White House for a Republican who could defeat status-quo Joe.”

2021 Child Tax Credit Improved Parents’ Mental Health

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A recent paper in Health Affairs found that the 2021 Expanded Child Tax Credit, which provided monthly payments to U.S. families during the Covid-19 pandemic, improved the mental health of adults in the lowest-income families. 

RITA HAMAD; Rita.Hamad@ucsf.edu, @DrRitaHamad
     Hamad is an associate professor at UC San Francisco’s Institute for Health Policy Studies. 

The expanded Child Tax Credit is still a hotly debated policy. From July to December 2021, the expanded CTC provided up to $3,600 per child, disbursed as automatic monthly payments rather than as an end-of-year tax refund. Research suggests that the expanded CTC reduced child poverty by half, and also reduced food insufficiency. But researchers had not yet looked at mental health––what Hamad called a “clear health outcome” that can change and be measured more quickly than other health outcomes. 

Hamad told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “We were trying to understand the effects of the 2021 expansion of the Child Tax Credit on mental health––specifically on the mental health of low income families. We did in fact find reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms, and we also found larger reductions in mental health problems among Black and Hispanic families. This wasn’t surprising,” given that racial and ethnic minority groups were at increased risk for chronic stress during the pandemic. Mental health was thus a “secondary benefit” of the expanded CTC. By improving parents’ mental health, the policy also “improves the environment that kids grow up in.” 

Hamad emphasized that the Household Pulse Survey data used for the study also took into account changes in the use of mental health care. By and large, families did not see changes in mental health care usage. The improvements seen in mental health were “not about families accessing more care; it’s that they are less stressed about their finances.” The policy also had a “larger effect in low income households, who need the money most.” This is partly because the expanded CTC did not require that families work to get the benefit, unlike the earned income tax credit. Instead, the policy had “fewer strings attached.” 

The group used Census data from the Household Pulse Survey, finding that the expanded CTC was associated with “reduced anxiety symptoms among low-income adults with children, as well as greater mental health benefits among Black and Hispanic people than among White people… The reduction in the prevalence of clinically meaningful anxiety symptoms (–3.4 percentage points) represents a 13.3 percent reduction from baseline anxiety levels among adults with children.” The authors argue this reduction represents a “meaningful change in the distribution at the population level, particularly considering the challenging pandemic-related circumstances during which [the CTC] was implemented and the potential cumulative effects if the benefit were to be extended.” 

“Help Wanted” Full-Page Ad in The Hill Calls for Challenger to Biden

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The Hill newspaper today published a full-page ad in its print edition (on page 7) calling for a progressive Democrat to step forward with a primary challenge to President Biden, who has said he intends to run for re-election.

The ad, which appears under a big “Help Wanted” headline, says that a “historic position” is available for an “articulate and principled Democrat willing to show political courage on behalf of party and country.”

The notice goes on: “Qualifications include a record of progressive advocacy, effective leadership and proven integrity. Capacity to withstand intensive pressure from corporate interests and the Biden White House a must.”

The ad was placed by the Don’t Run Joe campaign, which is sponsored by the activist group RootsAction.
Available for interviews:

KAREN BERNAL, nekochan99@hotmail.com@Roots_Action
Bernal is a Don’t Run Joe organizer and former three-term chair of the California Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus.

She notes that recent polls by CNBC and CNN found that nearly 60 percent of Democrats nationwide do not want Biden to be the party nominee in 2024.

“A presidential nomination should not be a coronation,” RootsAction national director Norman Solomon said. “Voters in the Democratic presidential primaries next year should not simply be told to rubber stamp a choice handed down from on high.” (Solomon is also IPA’s executive director.)

The organization’s co-founder Jeff Cohen said Thursday: “A healthy political party requires healthy political debate about its future. President Biden should not be enabled to coast to renomination without such a debate, especially in light of recent polling that shows most Democrats don’t want him to seek a second term.”

MLK’s Call to Get on the “Right Side of the World Revolution”

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In a major speech at Riverside Church in New York, exactly a year before his assasination, 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.

See the piece “Nuclear Weapons and the Legacy of Dr. King“: “In 1959, five months after being stabbed in Harlem, King addressed the War Resisters League’s thirty-sixth annual dinner, where he praised its work and linked the domestic struggle for racial justice with the campaign for global disarmament: ‘Not only in the South, but throughout the nation and the world, we live in an age of conflicts, an age of biological weapons, chemical warfare, atomic fallout and nuclear bombs … Every man, woman, and child lives, not knowing if they shall see tomorrow’s sunrise.'”

See C-SPAN’s coverage of the Church Committee’s investigation of the FBI’s “Suicide Letter” to Dr. King, part of the Counter Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO.

JARED A. BALL, imixwhatilike@gmail.com, @IMIXWHATILIKE
Ball is a professor of communication and Africana studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore 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 videos: “Dr. MLK Jr.: Struggling Not To Lose Him,” “Dr. King Did Not Support ‘#BuyBlack” and his interview with The Real News: “The Revolutionary MLK.”

Moderna Plans Huge Price Hike for Covid-19 Vaccine

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Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has begun petitioning Moderna against a price increase on its Covid vaccine from $26 to $130. Moderna announced the price hike last week as Covid vaccines shift to the commercial market.

WILLIAM LAZONICK; william.lazonick@gmail.com 
    Lazonick is a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts and co-founder and president of the Academic-Industry Research Network.

Sanders noted that Moderna’s Covid vaccine costs $2.85 to produce. Lazonick told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Moderna has made a bonanza off of a global public health crisis. What more do they want? This story is about greed. We can see [based on the price of Moderna’s stock value in the past two years] that they didn’t take a hit at $20 a dose,” which is the price at which the drug is currently set. Further, the National Institutes for Health “in effect gave Moderna the vaccine. They’ve already gauged us. The message they’re now sending is that they were giving us a gift when the price was $20 a dose––a price at which they still made massive profits and received government subsidies. Why should one company capture all that value? Decades of research, much of it publicly funded, ended up in that vaccine.”

He added: “It wasn’t a gift. They made out like bandits from it.” 

Now that Moderna and Pfizer have announced a new price range, Lazonick added, “I believe we shouldn’t negotiate, we should regulate. Congress needs to act––for instance, by passing a law that says that in a public health crisis, the government gets to set the price.”

 

Supreme Court Set to “Eviscerate the Right to Strike”

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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.

The Supreme Court has just heard oral arguments [PDF] in Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174 and is set to hand down its ruling by June 2023. Marjorie Cohn recently wrote the piece “The Supreme Court Is About to Eviscerate the Right to Strike.”

She describes the strike that led to the anti-union lawsuit: “Eighty-five truck drivers walked off the job. Sixteen of them whose trucks had been loaded with cement but hadn’t made their deliveries returned the trucks to the employer, leaving the trucks running to prevent the concrete from hardening. Glacier was unable to deliver all of the concrete and had to dispose of it. The trucks, however, were not damaged.”

She continues, describing why the anti-union lawsuit now being considered by the Supreme Court was at first lawfully dismissed: “…an employer must obtain a ruling from the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] saying that the workers’ strike was not federally protected before it can file a lawsuit against the union in state court. If the NLRB decides the union’s action is ‘arguably’ protected by the NLRA [National Labor Relations Act], the state court doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case.”

Cohn Concludes: “Given the political makeup of the court, it will likely rule that the drivers’ conduct was not protected by the NLRA and allow Glacier’s state court lawsuit to proceed. … The radical right-wing Supreme Court is about to deal a severe blow to the right to strike — the most potent weapon workers have to obtain justice.”

The Davos Billionaire Class is Seeing Their Wealth Skyrocket

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The report “Extreme Wealth” [full PDF] was just released by the Institute for Policy Studies,  Oxfam, Patriotic Millionaires, and Fight Inequality Alliance. This report is a complement to Oxfam’s recently released “Survival of the Richest.”

The groups state: “The global billionaire class is gathering this week in Davos, Switzerland to talk about the ongoing ‘polycrisis‘ — a term embraced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to describe the convergence of ecological, political, pandemic and economic disruptions. The one acute crisis they won’t talk about is the extreme levels of concentration of wealth and power happening across the globe.”

The report estimates that “$1.7 trillion could have been raised in 2022 alone if a progressive wealth tax were imposed on the ultra-rich.” In addition, over the last decade:

  • The global billionaire class has more than doubled and their wealth has skyrocketed at a similar rate: 99.6 percent. This is a gain of more than $5.9 trillion — almost twice as much as the combined GDP of Africa, a continent with over 1.3 billion people.
  • Wealth in the U.S. has been steadily concentrating in fewer hands. U.S. households with more than $50 million have seen their wealth increase 53.9 percent since 2012.  
  • As of November 22, there are an estimated 1,468,400 individuals in the U.S. with wealth over $5 million. Their total combined wealth is equal to $28 trillion.
  • Within this group, there are 64,500 individuals with wealth over $50 million, with a combined wealth of $12.5 trillion.
  • There are 728 U.S. billionaires with a combined wealth of $4.5 trillion, a 34.6 increase since the pandemic began in mid-March 2020.
  • Since 2012, the richest 1 percent in the U.S. saw their wealth gain 19 times more than the bottom half of the country’s population.
  • For every $100 of wealth created over the last decade, $37.40 went to the top 1 percent. The bottom half of U.S. households only saw a $2 gain. 
  • In the U.S., a graduated annual wealth tax of 2 percent on millionaires over $5 million, 3 percent on wealth over $50 million, and 5 percent on wealth over $1 billion, would raise $583.5 billion in revenue annually.

For more information and to speak with report co-authors Chuck Collins and Omar Ocampo, contact IPS’s deputy communications director Olivia Alperstein at  olivia@ips-dc.org.

Patient-Nurse Ratios: Chronic Problem Made Worse by Pandemic

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Strikes at two major New York City hospitals, Mount Sinai main hospital and Montefiore Medical Center, ended last week. More than 7,000 nurses had struck, making it the largest nursing strike the city saw in decades. 

ERIN HOGAN; text (646) 322-6616 to set up an interview
    Hogan is a nurse in the emergency department at Mount Sinai Hospital and a union delegate. 

LILY MEYERSOHN; lilymeyersohn@gmail.com 
    Meyersohn is a researcher at the Institute for Public Accuracy and a freelance journalist covering health and politics.

In an article for Truthout, Meyersohn described how nurses struck over staffing issues and unmanageable patient-nurse ratios. But this “is not a pandemic problem,” Hogan said of the issues. “This existed years before the pandemic. The pandemic has only made it worse. There’s nothing protecting staffing ratios. We’ve been doubling, tripling up on patient load. Every unit, we would bring it up to management.” 

Meyersohn wrote: “Mount Sinai and Montefiore agreed to staffing ratios similar to the ones included in the tentative agreements forged at the other hospitals. The contracts include clearer enforcement language compared to prior years, including penalties for short staffing. Montefiore, meanwhile, announced it would create at least 170 nursing positions, with a focus on the emergency department… Ideally, the new contracts will also help the hospital retain current nurses and hire new ones.” 

New Dem Leader Jeffries “Has Record of Defending Human Rights Violations”

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STEPHEN ZUNES,  zunes@usfca.edu, @SZunes

Zunes is professor of politics at the University of San Francisco.

In Congress, Hakeem Jeffries is now the House Democratic Leader — he was elected unanimously. Zunes just wrote the piece “Democrats’ New House Leader Has Record of Defending Human Rights Violations” which highlights Jeffries’ record on Israel. Zunes notes that he is close to the rightwing American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Indeed, AIPAC and similar pro-Israeli groups are three of Jeffries’ top five funders.

Zunes highlights that while virtually all members of Congress are supportive of Israel on some level, Jeffries is more extreme than most Democrats.

He writes: “Jeffries has been highly critical of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as Israeli human rights groups like B’tselem, for their recognition of Israel’s imposition of an apartheid system on Palestinians. Despite the overwhelming evidence in human rights reports that Israel’s policies meet the international definition of apartheid, Jeffries has dismissed the conclusions.”

Zunes goes on to discuss how Jeffries has attempted to abrogate the right to free speech: “In 2018, Jeffries co-sponsored a bill which would have effectively criminalized support for boycotts against Israel or companies doing business in the country or its occupied territories. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would have made it a crime to support or even furnish information about a boycott directed at Israel or the Israeli occupation supported by any entity of the United Nations, the European Union, or other international governmental organization. The penalties were draconian, including fines of up to $1 million and up to 20 years imprisonment.”

Zunes continues: “Jeffries has gone as far as defending Israeli war crimes. In response to international outrage at Israel’s 2014 war on the Gaza Strip, which killed nearly 1,500 civilians — roughly one-third of whom were children — he insisted it was all legitimate self-defense.”

Zunes writes that such maneuvers by Democrats in Congress are not new and have historically had harmful effects. House Democrats similarly “backed Rep. John McCormack in the 1960s despite his vocal support for the Vietnam War, contributing to alienation with the two-party system.”

Peru: Protests, Oligarchy and Racism

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PBS reports: “Protests in Peru demand ouster of president and call for new elections” and “Peru shuts down Machu Picchu as political unrest spreads across country.”

They write: “The protests erupted across the country last month after former President Pedro Castillo was removed from office and arrested. Threatened with impeachment on corruption charges, Castillo had tried to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government. Boluarte, who was Vice President, became president. …

“Castillo was Peru’s first leader from the rural Andes region. Campaigning on the slogan no more poor people in our rich country. He promised to address long standing issues of poverty and inequality. His ousters angered his rural and indigenous supporters, underscoring their alienation from leaders in Lima.”

FRANCESCA EMANUELE, emanuelefrancesca at gmail.com, @emanuelefrance6

Emanuele is a Peruvian sociologist and a doctoral student in Anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. and a Council on Hemispheric Affairs board member. She recently wrote the piece “Overthrow of President Castillo Exposes the Race and Class Divide in Peru,” which states: “In the eyes of Castillo’s supporters, this triumphalist celebration, the constant insults, the obstruction of presidential functions, and the abusive way that justice was served, all show that Peru is stuck in an oligarchical past. There is a ruling class that resists allowing the poor and working classes to be represented in the highest echelons of power. The lesson is: Even if such Peruvians managed to reach the highest political spheres, they would still be treated like inferiors.

“Today the judicial and legislative branches of Peru continue to perpetuate this attitude of contempt for the people, using their legal tools arbitrarily. In a clumsy attempt at self-preservation — hours before an impeachment vote — Castillo announced the dissolution of Congress. While his conduct amounted to a self-coup, the supposedly democratic institutions that remained standing broke the law themselves when they sanctioned him. Congress deprived him of his immunity in an express trial in which he had no right to a defense. The judiciary is holding him prisoner under inapplicable charges. One of them is the charge of ‘rebellion,’ which even the former dictator Alberto Fujimori could not be tried for, even after consummating his dictatorship with tanks in the streets.

“One only needs to review recent history to see why tens of thousands of Peruvians, having given up the high hopes they were holding in Pedro Castillo, remain by his side. Not only do they identify with the racial injustices the president suffered — and his arbitrary imprisonment — they also feel orphaned by structures that keep political representation out of their reach.”

 

Confronting the Corporate Exploitation of Tweens

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CLAIRE NADER, via Francesco DeSantis, francesco.desantis@essential-books.com

Nader is a social scientist and recently wrote the book “You Are Your Own Best Teacher! — Sparking the Curiosity, Imagination and Intellect of Tweens.” See the website: InspiringTweens.com.


She said today about her book: “I seek to discuss the loss of control by parents over their youngsters who are being direct marketed everyday by corporate hucksters (e.g., junk food) and addicted by the Internet Gulag Wardens up to six hours a day. This massive abduction of our children into a manipulative and exploitative virtual reality, separating them from their parents, communities, nature and even their teachers — reality in a word — calls for action. My book with 54 short topics starts by directly speaking to these tweens, sparking their curiosity, imagination and intellect to the delight of their parents and resultant liberating family conversation. Teachers have told me that the book, which is to be read and used, will improve the classroom performance of these young readers.”

A review of Nader’s book by Dorothea V. Dicecco in the Republican-American in Connecticut was recently entered into the Congressional Record by John Larson (D-Conn.).

Regulators Could Break Up Wells Fargo — If They Stay Strong

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SARAH PRAY, CARTER DOUGHERTY, carter at ourfinancialsecurity.org,  @RealBankReform
Dougherty is communications director at Americans for Financial Reform. He said today: “Over the last decade, Wells Fargo’s repeated misdeeds have been numerous and egregious enough to vault it into popular culture, notably Late Night with Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live. Americans for Financial Reform has documented its role as a serial lawbreaker, in the Wells Fargo Scandal Tracker.

“Last week, prodded by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the main big-bank regulator of Wells Fargo, known as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), said it is looking at new ways to tame megabanks, which show signs of being ‘too big to manage,’ including breaking them up. Sen. Warren, who conceived of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and pushed for its creation in 2010, called for prompt action to break up Wells Fargo.”

Pray, managing director for policy at Americans for Financial Reform added: “The OCC now needs to demonstrate the will to solve the problem it has diagnosed, up to and including the breakup of repeat offenders. Process is nice, but results, delivered promptly, that finally end chronic abuse of consumers by too-big-to-manage banks would certainly be better.”

War is a Racket: Fox Guarding Hen House; Stock Buybacks Rip Off Taxpayers

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The U.S. and Germany are sending more tanks to Ukraine.

ELI CLIFTON, eli.clifton@gmail.com@EliClifton
Clifton is a senior advisor at the Quincy Institute and Investigative-Journalist-at-Large at Responsible Statecraft.

He just wrote the piece “Foxes watching the hen house? DC insiders oversee Biden defense plans.” He reports: “After years at the trough, these government contractors are now empowered to judge how billions are spent on a key national security strategy. …

“Earlier this month, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees named eight commissioners who will review President Joe Biden’s National Defense Strategy and provide recommendations for its implementation.

“But the Commission on the National Defense Strategy … is largely comprised of individuals with financial ties to the weapons industry and U.S. government contractors, raising questions about whether the commission will take a critical eye to contractors who receive $400 billion of the $858 billion FY2023 defense budget.

“The potential conflicts of interest start at the very top of the eight-person commission. The chair of the commission, former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), sits on the board of Iridium Communications, a satellite communications firm that was awarded a seven-year $738.5 million contract with the Department of Defense in 2019.”

Clifton also just wrote the piece “Enormous Lockheed stock buybacks and dividends come at expense of taxpayers.

“The federal government and U.S. taxpayers are effectively underwriting massive returns for Lockheed Martin shareholders, returns so impressive that the weapons firm’s CEO, James Taiclet, boasted about how the company handed $11 billion over to shareholders in 2022 via share repurchases and dividend payments, creating ‘significant value for our shareholders.’

“Taiclet, speaking on a January 24 earnings call, said that Lockheed, the world’s largest weapons firm, was ‘ending the year with a total shareholder return of 40 percent.'”

Is New Cabinet the “True Face of Israel”?

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Secretary of State Tony Blinken is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday.

MIKO PELED, mikopeled at gmail.com, @mikopeled

ISSA AMRO, Issaamro at gmail.com, @issaamro

Peled is an activist and podcaster. His books include The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. He has argued that while Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has claimed Israel didn’t ethnically cleanse Palestinians in high profile interviews, some other Israeli ministers have advocated another such expulsion — while Netanyahu says the first never happened. Peled’s name and argument were cited in a question at the State Department on Friday, but the spokesperson would not denounce any of the Israeli ministers, see video.

Amro is based in Hebron and is founder of Youth Against Settlements. He has been making presentations with Peled and meeting with the New York Times and other editorial boards. He is regularly threatened, harrased and detained by the Israeli military and settlers for his nonviolent activity such as making films and attempting to prevent home takeovers.

He just appeared on the Katie Halper Show and spoke about his confrontations with Itamar Ben-Gvir, who Amro notes is associated with groups officially labeled as terrorist like those spawned by Meir Kahane and in support of Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Palestinians in a mosque. Gvir is now minister of national security for Israel. The State Department took one of the groups, Kahane Chai, off its terrorism list last year.

Amro argues that the rightwing ministers like Gvir now show the “true face of Israel.”

Peled says Gvir’s “partner in crime, Bezalel Smotrich, also a man who has been charged and actually sat in jail, very openly racist, he is now the minister of the treasury, allowing settlers to expand their settlements. Orit Strook, she will be the minister of national missions and she will be charged with West Bank settlements, and with dealing with these pre-military military academies. Another character in this very, very sad drama is a man by the name of Avi Maoz. He is also an extreme right-wing rabid racist Arab-hating homophobe, who will actually be given a position within the ministry of education, teaching national identity … he will be dealing with establishing curricula for Israeli schools.”

Economic Conditions Pushing Americans to Delay Health Care Treatment

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Gallup has found that 38 percent of Americans postponed medical treatment in 2022, compared with 26 percent in 2021. Americans were more than twice as likely to delay medical treatment for a serious condition compared to a non-serious one.

JIM KAHN; JGKahn@ucsf.edu 
    Kahn is a professor of health policy at the University of California at San Francisco and an editor and blogger at Health Justice Monitor.

Lower-income adults, younger adults and women delayed care for a serious medical condition more consistently than other populations, and people living in a home with an annual household income under $40,000 were nearly twice as likely to delay care for a serious condition compared to someone with a household income of $100,000 or more. 

Compared with 2021, care delays were up 12 percent among low-income adults, 11 points among middle-income adults, and 7 points for higher-income adults. The percentages represented the highest increases in one year––including for middle and higher income adults––since Gallup began conducting the poll 22 years ago.

Kahn called the results “horrendous.” In Health Justice Monitor, Kahn pointed to research that shows that “financial barriers have clinical consequences.” For instance, one recent study found that at least 17 percent of adults are rationing insulin due to high prices of the drug. Other researchers have found that increases in out-of-pocket costs for seniors reduces prescribed drug use and increases mortality. 

Physicians Say “Tripledemic” Should Have Been Declared a Pediatric Emergency

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Emergency and pediatric resident physicians argue that at the height of the “tripledemic,” the federal government should have exercised its power to declare a national emergency in pediatric health while viral illness spiked in children and pediatric hospital departments were overwhelmed across the country. In a Health Affairs article, physicians Charles Sanky and Estefania Chavez urge the government to “declare health emergencies every time our health care system cannot meet new demands, including right now with the sharp spike in viral illness among children.”

CHARLES SANKY; charles.sanky@mountsinai.org
    Sanky is an emergency resident physician and a population health researcher at the Mount Sinai Health System.

ESTEFANIA CHAVEZ; eyc2117@cumc.columbia.edu
    Chavez is a pediatric resident physician at NYP-Columbia Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

The authors argue that an emergency declaration would allow for emergency funding, regulatory flexibility, and innovation. In particular, Sanky said that emergency resources allow health systems to “gain additional staff, open additional units/spaces for patient beds, and affordably obtain crucial medications and devices.” 

Sanky told the Institute for Public Accuracy that the recent prevalence of RSV, COVID-19 and influenza have “sharply decreased” from their levels just a few months ago. But in the midst of the peak of the “tripledemic,” Sanky said, the “strain on health systems was remarkable.” In these sorts of situations, he said, we need “nimble, resilient systems of hospital care.” But “current policy, regulatory standards and models of healthcare financing” have made that nearly impossible. “As a result, declaring a public health emergency is one of the last tools we have in our toolkits.” 

Sanky noted that declaring “emergency after emergency” can be “psychologically taxing to the public” and “unsustainable.” But without “large-scale systemic changes in health service delivery,” emergency declarations work as necessary and important “stopgap solutions.”

Community Control Over Police

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February is Black History Month. Many have been startled that Black officers were involved in the killing of Tyre Nichols. But some analysts have been warning that the issue is the structure and nature of police forces, not simply their ethnic composition.

MAX RAMEAU, afrimax@niainteractive.com
Rameau works with Pan-African Community Action and has been an advocate of community control over police.

See the piece “Community Control of Public Safety: Building a Transitional Program for Power” at Black Agenda Report, which quotes Rameau.

He argues that the purpose of much policing is an outgrowth of colonialism and is set up to protect a system of massive inequality rather than protecting human life.

He said today: “Some Black cops wear dashikis and celebrate Martin Luther King Day. So why do they arrest and brutalize Black people? Because that is their job. They work for a system that exploits Black people. Because Black people do not like being exploited, they must be oppressed in order to facilitate the exploitation. The job of the police is to oppress Black communities in order to facilitate their exploitation. That is the job of ALL police: the white and Black ones; the mean ones and the nice ones.”

Pakistan Bombing: An Attack on Elections?

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Al Jazeera reports in “Pakistan mosque bombing survivors traumatised but undeterred” that: “At least 100 people killed and more than 225 wounded in a suicide attack in the northwestern city of Peshawar.”

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: “Undoubtedly, this was a horrific attack in Peshawar and we are deeply mourning all of the victims here in Pakistan. It had all the hallmarks of the upsurge of attacks by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). However, along with the Afghan Taliban, they also have condemned this attack on a place of worship and have unequivocally denied having anything to do with it. And make no mistake: the TTP has no compunction in proudly owning up to its own horrific terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

“So what’s going on here? On the attempted assassination of former Prime Minister Imran Khan ousted in a Washington-backed regime change operation, he openly declared that he had intelligence information that the new puppet regime of Washington, and especially the head of one of the political parties in that coalition, Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), had hired fanatical militants to assassinate Khan by telling them that Khan is a ‘Jewish agent.’

“Even haters and critics of Khan and his party are beginning to admit that he would sweep elections that should be held ASAP in the country because there is zero legitimacy of the current regime….

“This is the crucial context that mainstream media is not covering at all right now — often for the obvious reasons.”

Activists Confront DNC about Biden, Manipulation of Primaries

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The Democratic National Committee “Winter meeting” is taking place in Philadelphia from Feb. 2 to 4. A mobile billboard declaring “Don’t Manipulate the Primaries” will be circling the hotel and activists will be leafleting.

This is part of the Don’t Run Joe campaign, which has begun a grassroots push from Democratic constituents telling the party’s members of Congress to go public with growing alarm about President Biden’s reported intention to run for re-election.

Democrats in the House and Senate have received thousands of emails from constituents who urged them to “stop muffling genuine concerns and start being honest about the pivotal downsides of a prospective Biden ’24 candidacy,” according to the Don’t Run Joe campaign, which is sponsored by RootsAction.org.

The group has also slammed Biden’s move to reorder primaries as a “self-serving intervention” to help him win renomination.

New York Governor Hochul Proposes Budget Without Significant Reforms for Home Care Workers

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced a FY24 Executive Budget that activists say lowers home-care wages and worsens the state’s home care shortage––which is the worst in the nation. 

MONICA KLEIN; monica@seneca-strategies.com
    Klein is the press contact for New York Caring Majority, a movement to get home care workers a wage of 150% of the minimum wage. 

ILANA BERGER; ilana@domesticemployers.org
    Berger is the executive director of Hand in Hand: the Domestic Employers Network.

In a February 2 press release for New York Caring Majority, Berger stated: “Governor Hochul proposes lowering home care wages at a time when the demand for home care is greater than ever.”

Legislators and advocates “won a $3 increase for home care workers in last year’s budget.” But the new budget dictates that wages will be frozen at $18 regardless of an increase in the minimum wage. Governor Hochul is “reversing the home care wage increase, returning home care workers to the minimum wage, while also creating a second-class home care worker in the state’s popular consumer directed program, which will further cut wages for over 100,000 workers.” 

The plan also directs state funds –– meant for home care agencies and workers –– toward private insurance companies. Berger stated that the budget “fails to ban this practice.”

“The Coming War with China”

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JOHN PILGER, jpilger2003@yahoo.co.uk, @johnpilger
Pilger is a journalist and filmmaker whose documentaries include “The Coming War on China” for ITV which came out in 2016.

He said today: “The U.S. reaction to an alleged Chinese spy balloon over Montana adds the absurd to its usual firehose of anti-China rhetoric. Instead of negotiating the balloon down to earth — i.e. talking to the Chinese — Washington sent up a couple of fighter planes and shot it down. That’s the news. What is almost never news is that the U.S. has some 400 military bases effectively surrounding China, from Australia, all the way up through the Pacific islands, to the Philippines and to Japan and Korea. The Japanese island of Okinawa is a floating launch pad 400 miles from the Chinese industrial heartland.

“How long will the rest of the world tolerate this constant provocation to war or, as an official in Washington put it, ‘this noose.'”

Pilger notes the U.S. uses drones to monitor China and low-draft ships probe its waters.

The South China Morning Post reported in 2021: “U.S. to make greater use of drones to spy on China, experts say.”

Just last week, CNN reported: “U.S. military to gain expanded access to Philippines bases in efforts to counter China.”

“The Coming War on China” is a “warning that nuclear war is not only imaginable, but a ‘contingency,’ says the Pentagon. The greatest build-up of NATO military forces since the Second World War is under way on the western borders of Russia. On the other side of the world, the rise of China as the world’s second economic power is viewed in Washington as another ‘threat’ to American dominance. To counter this, in 2011, President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’, which meant that almost two-thirds of all U.S. naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific, their weapons aimed at China.”

Chas Freeman: U.S.’s China Policy Harming Both U.S. and Chinese People

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CHAS FREEMAN, cwfresidence@gmail.com
Freeman is a noted former U.S. diplomat and a businessman with global connections. He was assistant secretary of defense for International Security Affairs from 1993-94. Freeman was the principal U.S. interpreter during Nixon’s landmark trip to China in 1972. He is now a visiting scholar at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

On Tuesday, he delivered remarks to the American Academy of Diplomacy, “U.S. China Policy: A Case of Self-Harm.” He said: “We no longer even pretend to comply with the basic agreements that we later worked out with Beijing to enable it to set the Taiwan issue aside for future peaceful resolution. Now, all the talk is about how to fight a war to determine Taiwan’s status. Both sides must know that such a war would be catastrophic for Taiwan, disastrous for both the United States and China, and severely damaging to any country that joined either us or the Chinese in the fight. But no one in Washington is attempting to find either solutions or a temporizing modus vivendi for managing Sino-American differences over Taiwan, as the Nixon administration did 50 years ago. …

“Anticipation of war with China is now the major justification for massive increases in subsidies to our military-industrial-congressional and intelligence complex. Military Keynesianism has found a reliable post-Cold War motivator. …

“But describing our effort to retard and, if possible, reverse the rise of China as ‘Cold War 2.0’ is a cop-out. It implies that our experience with the Soviet Union has somehow prepared us to contend with China and defeat it without triggering a hot war. As such, it is an exercise in denial, an excuse for fantasy foreign policy, and a justification for a counterproductive, entirely military approach to international affairs. …

“The U.S. intervention in China’s civil war in 1950 with the 7th Fleet — unlike our 1918-1920 intervention in the Russian civil war — succeeded in preventing a complete Communist victory. It detached Taiwan, part of Chinese territory, from the rest. More than 70 years later, we continue militarily to contest the borders of China. The more we do so, the more China feels obliged to challenge us. …

“In international affairs, as in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Our actions have stimulated China to mirror, meet, and match our military hostility to it. …

“Our apparent determination to hang onto Taiwan as part of an American sphere of influence in East Asia and our aggressive patrolling of China’s borders with naval and air forces have provided Beijing with the justification for its rapid reconfiguration and comprehensive modernization of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army].

“The ostensible aims of the U.S. effort to crush China’s national technology champions, hobble its electronic industries, and deny it foreign markets are to reduce our dependence on global supply chains and restore American jobs and economic leadership. But the immediate effects have been to:

* “Provoke a reciprocal decision by China to reduce reliance on imports from the U.S. and to step up efforts to boost its scientific and technological self-reliance. China has now committed $265 billion to reducing its dependence on imported semiconductors.

* “Disrupt supply chains, causing component shortages that diminish economic efficiency in the U.S. while generating inflation. …”

Biden Claims Not to Seek Conflict with China: So Why All the Military Bases?

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DAVID VINE, davidsvine@gmail.com, @davidsvine

Vine is a professor at American University and works with the Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition.

Biden said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night: “I’ve made clear with President Xi that we seek competition, not conflict.”

Vine countered: “But his actions indicate the opposite as he has accelerated a longstanding buildup of U.S. military bases and forces surrounding China, most recently with the Philippines bases deal.”

Newsweek recently reported that Admiral James Stavridis “suggested the balloon could have been signaling frustration over a new deal between the United States and the Philippines. … Stavridis said China could be particularly enraged by the deal allowing the U.S. access to bases on the northern island of Luzon, home to the Philippines’ capital and largest city, Manila.”

The Coalition recently released a statement: “Why New U.S. Military Bases in the Philippines Are a Bad Idea,” which begins:

* “On February 1, the governments of the United States and the Philippines announced the U.S. military will have access to four new military bases in the Philippines as part of an ‘Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement’ signed in 2014.

* “Five bases that already host U.S. troops will see $82 million in infrastructure spending.

* “Most of the new bases are likely to be in the northern Philippines close to China, Taiwan, and East Asian waters that have been the subject of growing regional disputes.”

The group states: “The U.S. Already Has Too Many Bases in Asia:

* “There are already at least 313 U.S. military base sites in East Asia, according to the Pentagon’s most recent list, including in Japan, South Korea, Guam, and Australia. New bases would add to a counterproductive buildup of U.S. bases and forces in the region that is costing U.S. taxpayers billions while undermining U.S. and regional security.

* “New bases would further encircle China and escalate military tensions, encouraging a Chinese military reaction.

* “There are hundreds of additional bases in other parts of Asia and a total of around 750 U.S. bases abroad located in some 80 countries and territories/colonies.”

Vine’s books include: Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, and most recently The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State.

“Not in the public interest”: HHS Ends Covid Hospitalization Dashboard

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Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services ended its dashboard that had tracked Covid-19 hospitalizations, announcing it was streamlining data sharing with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ARI PAUL; ari.paul@gmail.com, @aripaul 
    Paul is a journalist for FAIR, the national media watch group.

Paul told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “Any move by a government agency to either stop providing public health data or make that data harder to find is not in the public interest. When then-President Trump said ‘if we didn’t do testing, instead of testing over 40 million people, if we did half the testing we would have half the cases,’ he was rightly ridiculed in the press. The choice not to show certain data––or not to look at that data––doesn’t make the problem go away.”

Ending data collection or distribution about Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths may also exacerbate what Paul calls the “broader trend in media, government and business to declare that Covid is no longer a big deal — all in order to normalize things like getting workers back to the office physically five days a week and to end government interventions in public health like free testing and free vaccines. Having quick access to Covid data is a reminder that the world is still in a crisis that can only be solved by collective action and a more socialistic response to public health.” 

Along with many epidemiologists and public health advocates, Paul had previously been critical of a highly controversial opinion piece by Leana Wen in the Washington Post, which argued the U.S. is overcounting Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations. 

Myths of Ukraine War: Blowing Up Pipelines and Protecting Nazis

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The Ukraine war began a year ago this month. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh just published the piece “How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline” on Substack.

BRYCE GREENE, greenebj@iu.edu, @TheGreeneBJ
Greene has written a string of pieces for the media watch group FAIR on myths surrounding the Ukraine war. Last fall, he wrote the piece “U.S. Media’s Intellectual No-Fly-Zone on U.S. Culpability in Nord Stream Attack.”

He just wrote the piece “Facebook Protects Nazis to Protect Ukraine Proxy War.” Greene writes: “Meta, the parent company of Facebook, announced on January 19 that the company no longer considers Ukraine’s Azov Regiment to be a ‘dangerous organization.’…

“Even the logo of the Regiment is a variant of a popular Nazi symbol. Another Nazi symbol affiliated with Azov was printed on the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter’s jacket as he opened fire on multiple mosques in 2019.

“The founder of the regiment once asserted (Guardian, 3/13/18) that Ukraine’s mission was to ‘lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…against Semite-led Untermenschen.’ Even the U.S. Congress, who was funding the Ukrainian military years before the war, acknowledged the regiment’s neo-Nazi affiliation.

“In 2018, it passed a law restricting those funds from going to Azov fighters (The Hill, 3/27/18). However, officials on the ground acknowledged that there was never any real mechanism preventing the aid from reaching Azov (Daily Beast, 12/8/19). …

“Facebook encouraged even more ethnic hate against Russians by relaxing policies on violent or hateful speech against Russian individuals. Materials reviewed by the Intercept (4/13/22) showed that Facebook and Instagram users were now allowed to call for the ‘explicit removal [of] Russians from Ukraine and Belarus.’ In sharp contrast with its policy against allowing graphic images of the victims of Israel’s attacks on Palestine, the platform began to allow users to post such images from Russia’s invasion (Intercept, 8/27/22).

“All of this has contributed to the normalization, or even embrace of neo-Nazis in the U.S. Early in the war, Western media uncritically promoted an Azov publicity event while making no mention of the group’s Nazi ties (FAIR.org, 2/23/22). In October, the New York Times (10/4/22) wrote a laudatory article about ‘Ukraine’s celebrated Azov Battalion’ that completely ignored the group’s Nazi ties (FAIR.org, 10/6/22). An Azov soldier with a Nazi tattoo was even welcomed to Disney World by liberal icon Jon Stewart (Grayzone, 8/31/22).”

Greene’s past pieces include “Under Musk, Twitter Continues to Promote U.S. Propaganda Networks,” “Calling Russia’s Attack ‘Unprovoked’ Lets U.S. Off the Hook” and “What You Should Really Know About Ukraine.”

State Dept. Denies Latest Detailed Report That U.S. Blew up Nord Stream

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On Wednesday, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh published the piece “How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline” on Substack.

On Thursday, Sam Husseini questioned State Department spokesperson Ned Price about the story, see video and transcript: “State Dept. Denies Latest Allegations that U.S. Government Blew up Nord Stream,” also on Substack.

The Nord Stream pipeline had provided Russian natural gas to Germany. Many current and former U.S. officials had called for their destruction prior to the bombing.

BRYCE GREENE, greenebj@iu.edu, @TheGreeneBJ

Greene wrote “U.S. Media’s Intellectual No-Fly-Zone on U.S. Culpability in Nord Stream Attack” and other pieces related to the Ukraine war for the media watch group FAIR.

Greene said today: “Two days ago, legendary reporter Seymour Hersh released a detailed article about U.S. involvement in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline explosion last September. Based on a source with knowledge of the matter, Hersh alleges that the U.S., in conjunction with the Norwegian armed forces, planted and detonated the explosives that damaged the pipelines.

“This is significant given the ongoing mystery surrounding the attack. While U.S. media and government officials were quick to point at Russia, critics have cited the U.S.’s long-standing opposition to the pipeline as reason to suspect U.S. involvement. In early 2022, both Victoria Nuland and Joe Biden made direct statements about shutting down Nord Stream 2 in the context of a Russian invasion. Additionally, both Nuland and Blinken publicly expressed explicit satisfaction at the pipelines’ demise.

“Seymour Hersh’s reporting, while unconfirmed by other sources, does provide an explanation for U.S. behavior and is in line with stated U.S. objectives of cutting Germany off of Russian gas. It also gives operational details. When asked about the reporting, State Department spokesperson Ned Price denied what was in the report and claimed that Hersh was not a credible source.”

Greene’s past pieces for FAIR include “Under Musk, Twitter Continues to Promote U.S. Propaganda Networks,” “Calling Russia’s Attack ‘Unprovoked’ Lets U.S. Off the Hook” and “What You Should Really Know About Ukraine.”

Sam Husseini is an independent journalist and senior analyst at IPA.

Left and Right Unite Against Ukraine War

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Many from the political left and right are joining together at a rally — Rage Against the War Machine — at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, Feb. 19, the anniversary of the Ukraine War and President’s Day weekend.

After the rally, the protestors will march to the White House.

Speakers include: Ron Paul, author, physician and former Republican congressman from Texas; and Dennis Kucinich former Democratic congressman from Ohio and mayor of Cleveland.

The rally’s demands include:

* Not One More Penny for War in Ukraine

* Negotiate Peace

* Stop the War Inflation

* Disband NATO

* Global Nuclear De-Escalation

* Slash the Pentagon Budget

Among the speakers:

DANIEL McADAMS, dlmcadams@gmail.com, @RonPaulInstitut
McAdams is executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and co-host of the Ron Paul Liberty Report. He served as Dr. Paul’s congressional advisor on foreign affairs, intelligence, and civil liberties for 12 years on Capitol Hill. See video of his talks: “Foreign Policy Is Welfare for the Rich,” “How Not To Be a CIA Propagandist” and “How Russiagate Ruined Everything.”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com, @davidcnswanson
Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is the director of World BEYOND War, a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.

He writes and edits WarIsACrime.org — a recent piece there is titled “Homage to Russian War Resisters.”

David’s books on war and peace include War Is A Lie (a catalog of the types of falsehoods regularly told about wars) and War Is Never Just (a refutation of just war theory).

“Tragically,” said Swanson, “there are always people who opposed a past war and turn around and support a new one. So it’s critical to find people who supported past wars who will oppose one now.  But if we ever want to mobilize the activism required to de-fund the most expensive and destructive institution ever created, the U.S. military, we will have to come to an understanding that the problem is not any particular war. The problem is not any side of any particular war. The problem, the only thing we should be calling an enemy, is the very idea that there can be a right side in the toxic tango of organized mass murder that is every war. And time is not on our side; the risk of nuclear apocalypse is high and rising. So, we need to stand with anyone who will help advance the cry of Russia out of Ukraine — NATO out of existence!”

Correction: This news release initially incorrectly reported that Swanson wrote the piece “Homage to Russian War Resisters.” In fact, it was written by Lawrence Wittner.

NYC Mayor Ends Public Sector Employee Vaccine Mandate

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NYC Mayor Eric Adams ended the Covid-19 vaccine mandate for public sector workers this past week.

DENIS NASH; denis.nash@sph.cuny.edu, @epi_dude
    Nash is an epidemiologist and the executive director of the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health. 

Nash told the Institute for Public Accuracy that Adams’s move “may send the wrong signal that people don’t need to worry about staying up to date on their vaccines––that the threat of the pandemic and the need for people to get vaccinated (and, by extension, stay up to date) has passed.” Other sectors may follow suit, becoming “more lax about vaccinations, which will contribute to chronic undervaccination at the population level, more preventable deaths in the event of a surge, and more long Covid.”

Nash also notes that it is “troubling that, despite being in a vulnerable place (with less than 20 percent of adults up to date on vaccines), there is a de-implementation of strategies like the city worker vaccine requirement, with no alternative plans for getting the city to a better place around vaccine and booster coverage.” 

The mayor gave no stated reason for the change, other than that 96 percent of city workers have received the primary doses of the vaccine. The city never adopted a mandate that would have required city workers to get boosters as they became available. Nash believes the city’s vaccine requirements “could have kept pace with the epidemiologic and scientific evidence by requiring people to be up to date,” which might have had a downstream effect on other sectors. 

Nash believes it may have been a “political decision” on the part of Adams: “a public health decision would not end a policy like that without another plan to improve and protect citizens from what remains a very real threat of a future surge… I am concerned at the lack of longer-term planning by our elected leaders and health department leadership around this.”

Nash also pointed out that the federal public health emergency declaration is set to expire on May 11, at which time it will “likely become harder and more expensive for many people to get vaccinated. So now is the time to get as many people up to date as possible, especially those who are most vulnerable.” 

Video: Israeli Military Assault Palestinian Human Rights Defender, Even with New Yorker Reporter on Hand

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Alice Speri of The Intercept writes: “The U.S. has laws banning the funding of military assistance to foreign military units with a record of human rights abuses. But they have never applied them to Israel.” See her new piece.

On Monday, Sam Husseini questioned State Department spokesperson Ned Price, see: “State Dept. Claims ‘We Follow the Law in Every Instance’ but Stonewalls on Law About Israeli Nukes” on Substack.

On Monday, Price criticized Israeli building of illegal Jewish-only settlements on the West Bank, but said Israel “is going to make its own sovereign decisions.” But Israel does not have sovereignty over the West Bank.

ISSA AMRO, issaamro@gmail.com, @Issaamro
The Israeli military assaulted UN-Recognized Human Rights Defender Amro on the closed Shuhada Street in occupied Hebron. The assault, which was caught on camera in a viral video, happened in front of New Yorker correspondent Lawrence Wright, who said the Israeli military misrepresented the incident.

An Israeli soldier was filmed grabbing Amro by the throat and throwing him violently to the ground, then proceeding to kick him before another soldier intervened. Wright tweeted the video, which went viral. The Israeli army claimed that Amro provoked the incident. In response, Wright tweeted: “The IDF is misrepresenting what led to assault on peace activist Issa Amro in Hebron yesterday. The soldier initiated the encounter. Amro did not curse or interfere only asked that he call the commander. Nothing to justify the attack that followed.”

Haaretz reports the soldier is to be jailed for ten days.

But Amro notes Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir tweeted a statement in support of the attacker. In response, Amro stated, “Last time I filmed an Israeli soldier brutally beating up an activist, Israeli media reported that the soldier received large money donations in support of his violence.” Amro stated. “I would not be surprised if this soldier will now receive money too. This is the reality under Ben Gvir’s extremist army.”

The assault is the most recent incident in the bout of attacks against Palestinians and Amro in the wake of the latest Israeli elections. Amro has faced threats, beatings and arbitrary detentions since filming an assault of an Israeli peace activist in late 2022. Amro is the director of the charity Friends of Hebron and the co-founder and former coordinator of the Palestinian community group Youth Against Settlements. While visiting the U.S. last month, Amro was featured on an IPA news release.

Sam Husseini is an independent journalist and senior analyst at IPA.

Ohio Train Derailment: Braking Systems and Health Impacts

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Days after a train derailment prompted a “controlled release” of chemicals onboard, residents of East Palestine, Ohio are no longer under an evacuation order. But residents are now reporting sore throats, burning eyes, and respiratory issues; local wildlife––including thousands of fish, backyard chickens, and a skulk of foxes––have also been reported sick or dead. Animal owners believe these illnesses and deaths are a result of unclean, unsafe air.

Reporters from The Lever found that the railroad industry blocked safety rules that would require the industry to update trains’ braking systems. If implemented, those changes might have prevented this catastrophic derailment from occurring. 

JULIA ROCK; jrock@levernews.com, @jul1arock
    Rock is an investigative reporter for The Lever

On Democracy Now!, Rock said that the Obama administration attempted to require trains carrying hazardous materials and crude oil to install safer braking systems, which use electric braking rather than the Civil War-era “air brakes” that are currently in use––which use a pressure system to stop train cars one by one. The derailment, Rock said, “is the result of efforts by the railroad industry to ensure that they do not have to retrofit trains carrying hazardous materials and crude oil with safety features.”

NATO’s Sweden and Finland Campaign

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Reuters reports: “NATO chief says ‘time is now’ for Turkey to ratify Finland and Sweden membership bids.” The Munich Security Conference starts Friday and goes through Sunday. Officials attending include U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

JAN OBERG, tff@transnational.org, @janoberg
Co-founder of the Swedish-based Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future ResearchOberg has done extensive work on NATO and the roots of conflict. In his latest piece, he writes: “The Munich Security Conference is the main European hawk forum – historically growing out of von Kleist’s Wehrkunde concerns – for everyone believing in more weapons, armament and confrontation as synonymous with peace and freedom.”

In his widely cited article “It is foolish for Finland and Sweden to join NATO and ignore both the real causes and consequences,” he wrote: “NATO’s expansion policy created — and is responsible for – the conflict. Russia created — and is responsible for — the war. There exists no violence which is not rooted in underlying conflicts. …

“And if they want peace, they do not increase the symptoms — the war — they address the real cause, the conflict and ask the conflicting parties to tell what they fear and what they want and then move, step-by-step towards a sustainable solution.

“But neither the mainstream media nor politicians have the civil courage to address the conflict. It’s only about the war and only about Russia/Putin who must be punished, no matter the price to be paid by future generations. If we survive. …

• “Both have been under heavy pressure by NATO and the U.S. in particular. Sweden’s prime minister, Olof Palme, was murdered [in 1986] — a man who stood for the UN goal of international disarmament, nuclear abolition and the intelligent concept of common security. U.S. ambassadors have held secret meetings with Swedish MPs, there are many channels, demands and rewards. …”

• “Both countries have moved to be wooed by the U.S. and NATO. They have, over the last 20 years, become engaged with NATO in all kinds of ways — so, as the saying goes, why not marry now? In other words, Finland and Sweden now join because they have — incrementally — made one wrong decision after the other, painted themselves into a ‘no-choice-but-NATO’ corner and abdicated every ounce of their historical, independent-minded creative foreign policy thinking. And stopped criticism of warfare and militarism.”

See TFF’s extensive catalogue: “Abolish NATO Or Convert It To Serve Peace.”

Train Disaster: Causes and Solutions

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MEL BUER, mel@therealnews.com @mel_buer
Buer is an associate editor and labor reporter for the Real News Network and has been covering railways. Her pieces from last year include “Biden and Congressional Dems partner with GOP and corporate media to discipline railroad workers” and “Corporate billionaires are wrecking the supply chain. Just look at the railroads.”

She recently wrote “The Ohio Derailment Catastrophe Is a Case Study in Disaster Capitalism: Rail workers say the industry has long ignored pleas for better safety protocols” for The Nation.

She writes: “In the immediate aftermath of the derailment, rail officials ordered that the vinyl chloride hauled by five of the Norfolk Southern cars in the 150-car train be burned off to prevent a still greater explosion — but that action sent hydrogen chloride and phosgene, two dangerous gasses, spuming into the air. EPA investigators have since identified other hazardous chemicals the train had been hauling, including ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene, and butyl acrylate. And the EPA has released a report saying that chemicals from the derailment have leached into the soil and water in the aftermath of the accident. …

“Rank-and-file workers organizing with Railroad Workers United (RWU) have waged high-profile pressure campaigns to improve rail safety and retain staffing. Jason Doering, an RWU organizer and a legislative representative of SMART Nevada, says that focusing industry and regulatory attention on the threat of derailments has been a continual challenge. Rail workers with Fight for Two Person Crews have been waging an allied campaign to lobby state and federal lawmakers to create and enforce standards for safer train staffing: a mandatory minimum of two person crews on freight trains. Last year, the Federal Railroad Administration proposed to reinstate a two-person crew rule and opened a public hearing in December 2022. During the public comment period for the rule change, more than 13,000 comments were logged in favor of it. …

“Ultimately, though, rail workers — who have been blocked by the Biden White House in seeking basic workplace guarantees such as sick leave — can’t be the only force holding rail carriers accountable in critical matters of public safety. The Department of Transportation — which has long treated rail carriers as clients rather than regulatory subjects — needs to meet the present public-safety crisis with more extensive and robust regulatory measures. ‘It’s more evident than ever that the DOT needs to act to increase the maintenance and inspection cycles for all of these cars on our tracks, and not just the hazmat, but all of them,’ Doering said.”

The group RootsAction just put out an action alert, calling on Biden to reverse Trump’s repeal of brake safety rules. The group also calls on Biden to “declare an emergency and thereby create a taskforce to address the disaster,” see “Ohio is facing a chemical disaster. Biden must declare a state of emergency” by Steven Donziger. RootsAction also notes: “Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pretends that he cannot, but he can, and must, expand the definition of ‘high-hazard flammable trains’ to include all trains carrying compounds that can explode and poison the air, thereby giving local officials knowledge of what is in trains passing through.”

“Dangerous and Unethical”: New York Removes Mask Mandate for Health Care Settings

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New York State lifted its blanket mask mandate for health facilities last week. 

The People’s CDC––a coalition to reduce the harmful impacts of Covid-19––called the change “dangerous and unethical” and began a #KeepMasksinHealthcare awareness campaign. (Last December, The New Yorker ran an article on the People’s CDC which was largely decried as a hit piece by public health experts and pandemic mitigation policy advocates.) 

STELLA SAFO; stella@justequityforhealth.com 
    Safo is an HIV primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

JUSTIN FELDMAN; jfeldman@hsph.harvard.edu 
    Feldman is a social epidemiologist and a principal research scientist at the Center for Policing Equity. 

Feldman said: “Covid is still here; it’s a leading cause of death [in this country], and thousands of people are still dying per week. Masking is an issue of access for medically vulnerable and older people––they need masks to access spaces more safely.” A doctor’s office, for instance, should be the most accessible. “Masking is a key component of infection control. Of all the lessons we could have learned and the policies we could have institutionalized,” masks in health care settings would have been the most important. 

At this point, Feldman noted, lobbyists have pushed against Covid workplace protections, arguing workplaces should follow CDC guidance. But CDC guidance has gotten “weaker and weaker over time.”

Safo told the Institute for Public Accuracy: Hospitals are full of “babies, people with cancer, people who are sick themselves. We have enough understanding after three years that masks reduce disease.” But policy change is “driven by the desire to negate the fact that Covid exists and is dangerous.” Advocates are now “going after health care spaces too.” 

The People’s CDC argues that removing masks in health care settings “puts both patients and health care workers at risk, which could place even more strain on the health care system amidst severe staffing shortages.” They asked constituents to sign a letter to their respective governors to keep masking in health care settings. 

Biden: * “Must Negotiate” on Ukraine * Caving to Israel on Iran War Threats

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Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago tomorrow. The Defuse Nuclear War coalition is organizing protests around the country.

DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs.arizona.edu
Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona and has written extensively on NATO and Russia. He said today: “NATO’s relentless escalation of its proxy war in Ukraine has endangered world security, while escalating inflation and lowering living standards for working people in the United States. Though we all deplore the illegal Russian invasion, we must accept that there can be no final victory over a nuclear armed power. Continued NATO arms deliveries will only prolong the suffering of Ukrainians, while risking global nuclear war. With the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, the Biden administration must abandon its objective of victory and press for a negotiated settlement.”

See his new website for numerous articles and interviews. Gibbs’ books include First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia and the forthcoming How America Became a Right-Wing Nation.

Al Jazeera reports: “Israeli forces kill 11 Palestinians in Nablus raid.”

TRITA PARSI, tparsi@gmail.com, @tparsi
Parsi is the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute and just wrote the piece “By Caving to Israel, Biden Opens the Door to War.”

Parsi writes: “As all eyes were on Ukraine and Chinese balloons in the sky, the Biden administration seemingly shifted America’s longstanding opposition to Israel starting a disastrous war with Iran. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Sunday that ‘Israel can and should do whatever they need to deal with [in regards to Iran] and we’ve got their back’ — a thinly veiled reference to military action.” Parsi also cites statements by other officials including Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

Parsi adds: “Unlike any of his predecessors, the president seems to be openly courting the idea of Israeli military confrontation with Iran,” which Parsi argues would be disastrous, further destabilize the Mideast and risk sucking in the U.S.

He also notes that “Biden has refused to reverse almost all major policy shifts in favor of Israel that Trump put in place — from moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, to recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights (which exposes the blatant double standard in Biden asserting that Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory threatens the ‘rules-based order’)…”

Mask Mandates: Bret Stephens Gets It Wrong

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The New York Times ran a misleading opinion piece by Bret Stephens this week on the benefits of mask mandates, citing a Cochrane meta-analysis that came to inconclusive findings on whether wearing masks stops or slows down the spread of all respiratory viruses. Still, Stephens used the review paper to announce that “mask mandates did nothing.” 

Public health experts quickly responded to clarify the issue. 

JULIA RAIFMAN; JRaifman@bu.edu
    Raifman is an assistant professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University’s School of Public Health. She conducts research on how health and social policies shape population health and health disparities.

LINSEY MARR; lmarr@vt.edu 
    Marr is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.

Marr told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “I fear that some members of the public will interpret the Cochrane review and the discourse surrounding it as the final conclusion that masks don’t work. The problem is that people want to see this as a binary issue.” Last year, Marr stated: “Masks work vs. masks don’t work. Both sides are right and both are wrong because masks are neither 100% nor 0% effective.”

    “None of the studies reviewed [in the Cochrane paper] actually looked at the effect of a mask mandate. Many of them looked at studies involving healthcare workers who were instructed to wear a mask when interacting with patients, but we can presume that the healthcare workers did not wear masks at other times, such as when socializing, eating or shopping outside of work. It is quite possible that the subjects were infected at other times when they were not wearing masks and that the effect of mask-wearing would be diluted as a result. It’s like wearing a condom some of the time but not all of the time.”

Marr noted that there are other studies that have come closer to looking at community-wide masking measures, which found a “lower incidence of infections when masks were used.” A counter opinion may also be in works, which would clarify “that there is strong evidence that an individual can achieve a high level of protection through consistent wearing of a good-quality, well-fitting mask, while the effect at a population level will be lower due to lower adherence to proper, consistent mask use.”

Raifman spoke about the policy level. She told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “We have to look at the full body of evidence––and think about logic… Engineering evidence supports [the idea that masks] reduce spread. Masking is especially important for the person who has Covid,” including those who unknowingly have it. At this point in the pandemic, we have many “rigorous studies on this [that have been conducted] at very different periods in the pandemic.” We find that “mask policies do make a big difference in reducing spread.” Masking “together,” Raifman noted, “is much more effective than masking alone. Masking alone is a last resort.” Raifman added that the public needs a “good grasp of the facts” to then determine “when it is worth implementing the policies.” That includes Covid policies but also policies for other airborne diseases. (Scientists are currently concerned that the transmission of avian flu, for instance, which spreads from birds to humans, could at some point shift to an airborne disease capable of spreading directly between humans.)

Carter Blocked Abourezk’s Resolution to Hostage Crisis

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Former Senator James Abourezk died on Feb. 24 at 92. Jimmy Carter recently entered hospice care.

Abourezk was a maverick member of the senate in the 1970s who challenged corporate power, defended Native Americans and took on the power of the Israel lobby.

In 2002, Abourezk went on a delegation to Baghdad organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy, meeting with the Iraqi leadership. Just after that delegation, the Iraqi government allowed the weapons inspectors, which Bill Clinton had withdrawn in 1998, back into the country. Some hoped the invasion, which took place almost exactly 20 years ago, could be prevented, but George W. Bush proceeded regardless.

After he left the senate in 1979, Abourezk represented the Iranian government. Shortly after the hostages were taken at the U.S. embassy, Abourezk negotiated a “truth for hostages” agreement with Abolhassan Banisadr, then chairman of the Revolutionary Council: The hostages would be released and the senate would hold major hearings on Iranian grievances including the U.S. government’s support for the tyrannical Shah. See video of Abourezk.

However, the Carter administration blocked the deal. Instead, the hostage crisis dragged on for more than a year, Reagan was elected and the hostages were finally released just moments after his inauguration.

Trita Parsi of the Quincy Institute recently reported regarding Iran: “By Caving to Israel, Biden Opens the Door to War.”

Abourezk also founded the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

ABDEEN JABARA, amjabara@aol.com
Jabara is a long-time associate of Abourezk and was president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

SAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini@gmail.com, @samhusseini

Husseini just wrote the piece “James Abourezk: Radical Senator.” He is senior analyst at IPA.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive@gmail.com, @normansolomon
Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and accompanied Abourezk on the 2002 trip to Iraq.

Groups Calling for End to Yemen War Which Has Killed Hundreds of Thousands

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ISAAC EVANS-FRANTZ, isaac@actioncorps.org, @actioncorpsnyc
Isaac Evans-Frantz is with Action Corps, which has focused on Yemen. He said today: “The Ukraine war anniversary is not the only current war anniversary. Over 70 groups are calling for a day of Yemen war protests this Wednesday, March 1, and protests are planned in over 10 cities, including New York, in front of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ office.”

The coalition state: “The war in Yemen has killed hundreds of thousands of people and wreaked havoc on the country. In part as a result of organizing, for over 10 months Saudi Arabia has not dropped any bombs on Yemen. This could change anytime. We call on Congress for a permanent end to U.S. complicity in the war.”

Among the group’s demands: “Oppose further arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in compliance with U.S. laws, including Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act, prohibiting arms transfers to governments responsible for gross violations of human rights.

“Call on Saudi Arabia and the UAE to lift the blockade and fully open airports and seaports.

“Call on President Biden to insist he use his leverage with Saudi Arabia to press for the unconditional and immediate lifting of the devastating blockade.

“Support the People of Yemen. Call for the expansion of humanitarian aid for the people of Yemen.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council states: “The international community today showed it has abandoned Yemen at this crucial crossroads, with a mere quarter of the amount needed to support the millions of Yemenis who require urgent assistance. This is woefully inadequate and gives the signal that some humans are less valuable than others.”

The Federal Government’s Response to Covid

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On Tuesday, the congressional Covid-19 select committee held a hearing on the federal government’s response to the pandemic. Three witnesses selected by the Republican majority spoke: conservative physicians Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff, and Marty Makary. 

MALLORY HARRIS; mharris9@stanford.edu 
    Harris is a Knight-Hennessey scholar at Stanford University, where she is a PhD candidate in biology. 

Harris told the Institute for Public Accuracy that she was pleased to hear that the majority’s witnesses––who have previously been in opposition to the widespread use of Covid-19 vaccines––nonetheless “emphasized pediatric vaccinations other than the Covid vaccine,” and did not take a “broadly anti-vaccine” stance during the talk. Harris hopes they will continue to hold that position, especially given that two of the witnesses serve on a Florida committee that plans to counter the CDC. Harris believes the committee will be under pressure to consider other childhood vaccinations.

Harris added: “This [hearing] could have been a chance to really take stock of what has happened,” and to discuss ongoing issues including the lack of federal paid sick leave, widespread hospital closures, and the lack of preparation for another possible pandemic. But much of the hearing was spent talking about the moderation of Bhattacharya’s personal Twitter account, which the witnesses allege may have been part of a government conspiracy. 

Though the witnesses call themselves underrepresented voices about the pandemic response, “all three of them have publicly advised policy makers throughout the pandemic,” Harris said.  “But there was no mention of the role they played as prominent policy advisors and the specific policies they recommended.” Instead, the hearing “perpetuated the narrative that they were ignored and silenced––though we know that they advised governors and President Trump.”

Harris added: “There was a lot of conversation about whether or not vaccines should have been mandated, or broad and unsupported statements that [Covid mitigation] measures were ineffective. But there was not a lot of focus on solutions. What are we going to do in the face of the next pandemic? And currently, what are we going to do about those who are still at risk of severe Covid?” 

Voters Rejecting Biden While DNC Rigs Process

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NATHAN ROBINSON, nathan@currentaffairs.org@NathanJRobinson
Robinson is founder and editor of Current Affairs Magazine. He is the author of several books, including Why You Should Be A Socialist and Responding to the Right. He recently published a piece titled “Democratic Voters Want To Get Rid of Biden — But Will The Party Let Them?

He writes: “Joe Biden’s presidency has been an abject failure. This is certainly the impression one gets from looking at the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll results, which find that ‘more than 6 in 10 Americans (62 percent) say they would be “dissatisfied” or “angry” if Biden were reelected in 2024.’ Just seven percent of voters say they are ‘enthusiastic’ about Biden (one wonders who the seven percent are). Perhaps most astonishingly, the overwhelming majority of Democrats want to get rid of Biden.”

Robinson describes the conflict between voters and Democratic Party officials: “Even though voters’ views are pretty clear on this, party leaders are actually trending in the opposite direction. The Wall Street Journal tells us that those at the top of the Democratic Party are actually becoming even more strongly committed to supporting Biden’s reelection, that Biden ‘isn’t expected to face a major primary challenge,’ and that the Democratic National Committee recently ‘approved a resolution expressing its ‘full and complete support’ of the president’s re-election.””

He continues: “Biden and the DNC are actually rigging the primary schedule in order to improve Biden’s chances of fending off the kind of challenger that voters clearly want to see (pushing back New Hampshire, where Bernie Sanders did well, and pushing forward South Carolina, where Biden triumphed).”

He concludes: “I don’t want Donald Trump to return to office. … To stop this outcome requires, one would think, Democrats to have a candidate that people actually want to vote for. All of the evidence right now indicates that most votes for Biden would be grudging at best. That’s not a good sign, and anyone who doesn’t want to see a Trump or DeSantis presidency…should want the Democrats to have a strong candidate running. Instead, they’re pushing Joe Biden, a man whose presidency has been an abject failure.”

Medicare and Drug Prices

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Recent analysis in the Journal of Managed Care and Specialty Pharmacy predicts that Medicare will most likely negotiate prices for 38 Medicare Part D drugs and two Part B drugs between 2026 and 2028. These 40 products eligible for negotiation––including inhalers, antidiabetics, anticoagulants and more––accounted for $67.4 billion in gross Medicare spending in 2020. 

INMACULADA HERNANDEZ; inhernandez@health.ucsd.edu
    Hernandez is an associate professor of clinical pharmacy at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego.

Hernandez told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “It’s important for the public to know which [drug] classes we’ll see negotiation in” in the next few years, including “new anticoagulants, antidiabetics, cancer drugs, and multi-virals and HIV drugs.” The drugs that Hernandez predicts will be negotiated concentrate the majority of the market, and accounted for 20 percent of spending in 2020. Beneficiaries can expect that their out-of-pocket costs will go down for these drugs. This will all make a “big difference in spending.”

Hernandez was surprised that only two drugs from Part B—drugs administered by providers, like injectables and infusions—will be eligible for negotiation based on most recently available public data.

The analysis also found that most high-spend drugs that are ineligible for negotiation already have a biosimilar or generic version on the market. 

Amazon HQ2 Doesn’t Deliver Jobs: A Lesson on Corporate Subsidies

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The New York Times reports: “Amazon Pauses Work on 2nd Headquarters in Virginia.”

GREG LeROY, goodjobs@goodjobsfirst.org, @goodjobsfirst
LeRoy is executive director of Good Jobs First, which scrutinizes corporate subsidies by local and state governments.

The group has an Amazon Tracker which estimates $5.1 billion in local and state subsidies to the tech giant.

He said today: “Amazon’s HQ2 slowdown is the latest evidence that incentives do not enable a company to defy gravity. At least the State of Virginia’s subsidies — probably the smallest offered among the HQ2 finalists — are performance-based, so the State is not going to pay unless the jobs materialize. Residents of Long Island City in Queens are once again validated: they rejected what could have been massive displacement and then job disappointment.

“We disapproved of Amazon getting anything at all. But it had many offers worth more than 10 times what it got in Arlington, even in suburban Maryland. So this slowdown is one more teachable moment in why subsidies don’t matter and are usually wasted.”

In 2018, LeRoy was featured on an IPA news release: “Amazon HQ2: ‘Massive Transfer of Wealth from Taxpayers to Shareholders.'”

In a recent report, the group found: “New York State Schools Lose $1.8 Billion Per Year to Corporate Tax Abatements.”

Public Investments in the mRNA Vaccines

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A retrospective cohort study published this month in The BMJ found that 34 research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health were involved in the development of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines. Those grants totaled $31.9 billion. 

SHAWN FREMSTAD; fremstad@cepr.net 
    Fremstad is the director of law and political economy and a senior advisor at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The study found that the U.S. government invested at least $31.9 billion to develop, produce and purchase mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, including investments made in the 30 years prior to March 2020. Given that the vaccines translated into millions of saved lives and will inform scientific research into future vaccine development, the authors also conclude that to “maximize overall health impact, policy makers should ensure equitable global access to publicly funded health technologies.” 

Fremstad said: This study on the “massive extent of public financing of Covid-19 vaccine development and production comes at the same time as the U.S. government Covid-19 vaccine supply is running out. Pharmaceutical companies have not committed to providing free or low-cost vaccines to all people in the United States, even though each dose costs only $1 to $3 to manufacture. Using public funds, the U.S. government was a pivotal investor and buyer of the Covid-19 vaccines.

    “Since the U.S. people and government made the investments and took on the risks that were needed to produce the vaccines, we also need to be the ones to direct how the value we created is used. That should include ensuring that the vaccines remain free without creating new administrative or insurance barriers to access them, pursuing an Operation Global Vaccination, and building public options to manufacture vaccines and other critical health technologies.”

Matt Gaetz, Progressive Caucus Team Up to Oppose Syria Occupation

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Ryan Grim of the Intercept reports in: “Matt Gaetz, Progressive Caucus, and Former Obama Ambassador Team Up to Oppose Syria Occupation” that: “The Obama administration’s ambassador to Syria [Robert Ford], a leading voice in favor of aggressively confronting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the time, is now backing an effort by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to force U.S. withdrawal from the country within 180 days. …

“On Tuesday evening, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, or CPC, circulated a message to its membership urging a yes vote, producing a serious bipartisan coalition. ‘This measure to remove unauthorized deployment of U.S. Armed Forces in Syria unless a specific statutory authorization is enacted within six months is largely consistent with previous bipartisan efforts led by CPC Members to terminate such unauthorized military presence within one year, for which 130 House Democrats voted yes last year,’ read the message to members.

“The resolution is scheduled for a vote Wednesday afternoon.”

The effort brings together “progressive groups like Just Foreign Policy and Demand Progress and conservative ones such as FreedomWorks, Concerned Veterans for America, and Citizens for Renewing America.”

Grim notes: “The speed with which it is coming to the floor leaves little time for grassroots mobilization.”

ERIK SPERLING, erik@justforeignpolicy.org, @ErikSperling
Sperling is executive director of Just Foreign Policy.

20 Years Later: “The Most Important Leak” That Almost Stopped the Iraq Invasion

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KATHARINE GUN, kthgun@yahoo.co.uk
In 2003, Gun was an analyst with GCHQ, the British equivalent of the secretive NSA. As the U.S. government ramped up to invade Iraq, it sought a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the invasion.
To help get that authorization, the NSA put out a memo ordering a spy surge on other members of the UN Security Council to find ways to blackmail and bribe them into voting for authorization.

Gun was sent this memo. She exposed it and on March 2, 2003, the Observer published the memo on their front page.

The story ricocheted around the world, causing the U.S. government to fail to get UN authorization.

On March 8, 2003, the Observer reported that a worker at GCHQ had been arrested in violation of the Official Secrets Act. That was Gun. This effectively confirmed the veracity of the story and authenticated the document.

Gun, who lives in Turkey with her husband and child, said today: “I wouldn’t change anything that I did. I did what I was capable of. I felt genuinely alone in the process of trying to stop the war by exposing the U.S. government’s illegal actions.”

Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers, would comment: “No one else — including myself — has ever done what Katharine Gun did: Tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it. Hers was the most important — and courageous — leak I’ve ever seen, more timely and potentially more effective than the Pentagon Papers.”

The Institute for Public Accuracy put out multiple news releases on the case, but U.S. media largely buried the story. It was eventually told in the 2019 film “Official Secrets” with Keira Knightley playing Gun, see review by Sam Husseini which gives further detail on the case.

Gun added: “Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, few in the media picked up on the revelations, and even some who did didn’t follow up as vigorously as they could have. Similarly, few politicians, including those who had taken a stance against war, actually utilized the exposure to stop the invasion.” Even years after the invasion, Gun’s case has been notably ignored, effectively allowing the Bush and Blair governments off easy. The famed British Chilcot Report in 2016 was deemed “devastating” by the New York Times — but incredibly made no mention of the Gun case.

The U.S. began its invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003 without UN authorization with its “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign. Bush told the weapons inspectors that Iraq had allowed in, and which were proceeding, to leave the country. He unilaterally demanded that Saddam Hussein leave the country — and then stated that the bombing would start regardless. (See just re-released excerpt of the film “War Made Easy” with Norman Solomon. See “Joe Biden won’t tell the truth about his Iraq war record — and he hasn’t for years” by Husseini.)

Gun added: “Also unfortunately, I think we see a similar pattern continuing with wars to this day. For example, you had Seymour Hersh recently report that the U.S. government was behind the bombing of the Nord Stream pipeline, quoting an anonymous inside source. But there’s virtually no follow up. A few members of the European parliament speak up, but there’s largely silence in most media and among the U.S. and British lawmakers — including those allegedly committed to peace.”

Solomon is executive director of IPA; Husseini is senior analyst with the group.

“The Partisan Pandemic Cottage Industry”

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In a new piece for PESTE magazine, public-health researcher Abby Cartus critiques the mainstream narrative of pandemic response in the U.S., which contends that the reason the country’s pandemic response was so badly botched is the country’s deep partisan polarization. 

ABBY CARTUS; abigail_cartus@brown.edu 
    Abby Cartus is a postdoctoral research associate with the People, Place, and Health Collective at Brown University School of Public Health, where her work focuses on overdose prevention, perinatal epidemiology, and statistical methods. 

Cartus writes that the explanation in news media and academic research, which hinges on politics and partisan polarization, “threatens to point us down a dead-end path.” The framing provides an “easy answer,” she writes, indicating that it was the public’s “stubborn attachment to our partisan identities and mistrust of one another that ultimately scuttled an effective response.” Cartus argues that that narrative blames the public for what she sees as the government’s failures.

She told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The partisan gaps are real. But they’re being endowed with an [outsized] explanatory power. The narrative is doing a lot of work to cover up for policy failures that did not need to happen. It also does a lot of work to shield public figures from public outcry and response. The U.S. pandemic response failed so badly because of structural and material things—policy decisions made decades ago, pandemic policy decisions, and the economic imperatives of running a capitalist economy.”

China Brokers Normalization Between Iran and Saudi Arabia

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TRITA PARSI, tparsi@gmail.com, @tparsi
Parsi is the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute. He states: “Saudi-Iran normalization is a BIG DEAL, not just because of the positive repercussions it can have in the region — from Lebanon to Yemen — but also because of mediated it (China) and who didn’t (U.S.).

“Saudi-Iran tensions have had many ups and downs in the past 40 years, but this is the first time they have agreed to lower the temperature through Chinese mediation. By not taking sides, China has emerged as a player that can resolve disputes rather than merely sell weapons.”

Meanwhile, Parsi notes the U.S. focus on Israel: “When asked about the China-brokered agreement between Iran and Saudi, Biden responds that ‘the better relations between ISRAEL and its Arab neighbors, the better for everybody.'” Parsi adds: “While the Abraham Accords have been lauded as a ‘peace deal,’ the Wall Street Journal explicitly states that it could ‘extinguish the flickering Palestinian hopes of creating an independent state.’ So it would be a ‘peace’ based on Israel annexing Palestine. Got it.”

In 2021 Parsi called on the U.S. to help build a new Persian Gulf security architecture: “1. Abandon dominance 2. Encourage regional dialogue, but let the region lead 3. Include other major powers such as China.” He notes now: “Biden didn’t listen, but apparently Beijing did.”

He adds: “The Saudi-Iran normalization was apparently not a one-off by China. China is also arranging a summit between Iran and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council for later this year.”

Collapse of SVB: Single Payer Healthcare — For the Financial System Only

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THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson@umb.edu
Ferguson is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Boston, research director at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and senior fellow at Better Markets.

He said today: “After 2008 the financial system was supposed to be fixed thanks to Dodd-Frank, stress tests, higher capital requirements, etc. Suddenly we wake up to discover that the collapse of a single bank mortally threatens the whole financial system and that authorities are reinstating single payer healthcare for the financial system (only). And this amid news reports that SVB [Silicon Valley Bank] lobbied against regulatory restraints and higher FDIC fees and paid out bonuses just before the takeover. With monetary authorities still climbing uphill in their crusade against inflation, anyone who thinks this is a politically stable outcome is smoking something.”

He is the author or coauthor of many books and articles. Among these are “Myth and Reality in the Great Inflation Debate: Supply Shocks and Wealth Effects in a Multipolar World Economy” with Servaas Storm; and “Bankman-Fried, Political Money, and the Crash of FTX” and “How Much Can the U.S. Congress Resist Political Money? A Quantitative Assessment” with Jie Chen and Paul Jorgensen. The views expressed here are his own and not those of any organization he is affiliated with.

Silicon Valley Wants A Bailout

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JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry@mac.com, @submergingmkt
Henry is Global Justice Fellow at Yale University and managing director at the Sag Harbor Group. He just wrote the piece “So Silicon Valley Wants A Bailout?” He noted in a tweet that “#Signature was a premier NYC bank w Barney Frank on its board+ crypto/US$ exchange deals w Binance.”

RootsAction just put out an action alert: “Tell Senators to Apologize for Rigging the Rules for Reckless Banks.”

RENITA MARCELLIN, via Carter Dougherty, carter@ourfinancialsecurity.org,  @RealBankReform

Americans for Financial Reform states: “The swift demise of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank and the actions taken by the federal regulators over the weekend underscore the folly of the partial rollback of the Dodd-Frank law in 2018 and the need, looking forward, for strict oversight of large banks and the entirety of the financial system.”

Marcellin, the advocacy and legislative director for the group states: “Rolling back common-sense safeguards to ensure banks were liquid enough to pay their depositors was clearly the wrong decision. These banks would have faced a tougher risk management framework under the original Dodd-Frank law. But bipartisan majorities in Congress weakened the law in 2018 and Trump-appointed regulators took it even further.”

The group adds: “Congress should repeal the 2018 legislation, and take up additional measures to protect financial stability and the public interest. But regulators should not wait; they can take steps now to make the system more stable while protecting consumers and investors. They should strengthen bank capital and liquidity rules and make use of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Office of Financial Research to identify emerging risks, designate firms as systemically important, and properly regulate both banks and non-banks. They should also implement the Dodd-Frank mandate to limit executive compensation.” Dougherty is communications director for the group.

“Blame the Fed”

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L. RANDALL WRAY, wray@levy.org
YEVA NERSISYAN, ynersisy@fandm.edu
Wray is senior scholar at the Levy Economics Institute and his latest book is Money for Beginners; Nersisyan is associate professor of economics at Franklin and Marshall College. They just wrote the yet-to-be-published piece “Blame the Fed” which states: “If the Fed should go crazy and hike rates quickly, the market value of bank assets will fall. But the Fed has kept rates low for a generation — and seems to have learned its lesson from the last three significant rate hikes: Volcker in the early 1980s, Greenspan in 1987, and Bernanke in the early 2000s: rate hikes kill financial markets. Surely the Fed would not be so stupid as to quickly raise rates? Of course not. The Fed had learned its lesson the hard way. Why would you want to create another financial crisis?

“Enter [Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome] Powell and the pandemic disruptions to global supply chains. After some — laudable — patience as pandemic-induced inflation rose, Powell decided to raise rates to foam the runway for a soft landing. The truth is that the Fed has never engineered a soft landing. The reason is simple: higher rates reduce inflation only by creating a financial crisis that crashes the economy. After two decades of near zero interest rates, the Fed hiked rates extremely quickly — by 400 basis points (4 percentage points). All balance sheets that had been built during the period of low rates immediately became toxic. Short-sellers were watching. They sent out the warning to depositors: SVB [Silicon Valley Bank] is in trouble, withdraw all your deposits now!”

Is the Fed Both Causing and Exploiting Crises?

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TIM CANOVA, tim@timcanova.com
Canova is professor of law and public finance at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He said today: “The present crisis reveals some of the big shortcomings in the 2008 bailout approach — starting with a failure to nationalize and prosecute fraudster bankers; a refusal to close down the derivatives markets, cronyism and revolving doors between D.C. policymakers, regulators and banks; and the Federal Reserve’s trickle-down monetary policy, printing money to bailout banks and subsidize financial markets and a casino economy. … There are indications that the Federal Reserve may use the present crisis to try to usher in central bank digital currency (CBDC) and a centralized system of social credit and social control.”

In 2011, Tim was appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to serve on an Advisory Committee on Federal Reserve Reform. He has written extensively on the Federal Reserve, including “The Role of Central Banks in Global Austerity.” Other works are here.

Putin and ICC “Rank Hypocrisy” 20 Years After Iraq Invasion

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. His most recent book is World Politics, Human Rights and International Law.

He said today: “The ICC is itself guilty of rank hypocrisy. … Putin is the first white leader that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for.”

Boyle noted that exactly 20 years ago, the U.S. started its “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign, which initiated the full-blown invasion of Iraq. It began with the demand that Saddam Hussein leave Iraq following a long-planned scheme which included illegally spying on members of the Security Council to coerce their backing, which failed. The invasion was backed by Biden and others currently in power.

[There will be an online screening of “War Made Easy” tonight about how the public is manipulated into war. It will be followed by a panel with IPA Executive Director Norman Solomon (whose book the film is based on), Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Marcy Winograd, India Walton, Kathy Kelly, and David Swanson.]

Boyle added: “I asked [the ICC] for arrest warrants against Bush et al. for their policy and practice of extraordinary rendition but did not get them.” Boyle was a prosecutor for an international tribunal organized in Malaysia which found George W. Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against humanity in 2011. See reports in Al-Jazeera and Reuters.

“The ICC has not indicted even one American, even one Brit, even one Canadian, even one Australian, even one NATO leader, even one Israeli. This despite all the death and destruction that they have inflicted upon humanity all over the world for the past two decades.”

Boyle argued that the U.S. invasion of Iraq alone was far worse than the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but he critiqued a whole series of actions by the U.S. and its NATO and non-NATO allies.

Boyle’s recently-released book has a chapter titled “ICC: The White Man’s Court.” He said today: “Besides Putin, all the rest targeted by the ICC were Black Tinpot Dictators. So the Africans call the ICC ‘The White Man’s Court.’ The ICC has not lifted one finger to help the Palestinians, the Afghans, the Iraqis, the Libyans, the Syrians, the Somalis, etc.

“Just as Biden and Antony Blinken have refused to have good faith negotiations with Russia regarding Ukraine, so too did the U.S. government refuse to negotiate with Iraq and other countries it attacked.” Blinken has explicitly called on the ICC to not scrutinize Israel. Blinken is scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday.

Boyle also noted that a genuinely independent court would be examining the bombing of the Nord Stream pipeline, reportedly done by the U.S. government but which the State Department denies.

Did the Reagan Campaign Defeat Carter by Colluding with Iran to Hold on to the Hostages?

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The New York Times recently published a lengthy piece about the “October Surprise” allegations: “A Four-Decade Secret: One Man’s Story of Sabotaging Carter’s Re-election.” The piece makes brief mention of the work of Robert Parry, the journalist who uncovered a massive number of documents about the charge that supporters of Ronald Reagan conspired with the Iranian government to keep the U.S. hostages from being free until after the 1980 election, ensuring Carter’s defeat.

NAT PARRY, ndtparry@gmail.com, @natparry

Parry is the editor of American Dispatches: A Robert Parry Reader. He said today: “Decades after allegations initially surfaced of a secret mission by the Reagan campaign to derail Jimmy Carter’s 1980 re-election bid by sabotaging his efforts to free 52 American hostages being held in Iran, the New York Times is finally giving the story the attention it deserves with its report on Ben Barnes’ new claims. While we should welcome the new opportunity to examine the allegations, unfortunately the Times is continuing to perpetuate certain myths about the case, including its claim that ‘congressional investigations debunked previous theories of what happened.’

“In fact, the earlier congressional investigations were geared towards whitewashing the story and used false alibis in its attempt to disprove the October Surprise allegations. These debunking attempts were themselves debunked by my father Robert Parry when in early 1993 he uncovered troves of documents from the 1992 congressional investigation — documents that were never meant to see the light of day.

“These documents included a secret report from the Russian government, which corroborated allegations that the Reagan campaign interfered with Carter’s Iran-hostage negotiations in 1980. He also debunked the alibi of Reagan’s campaign director and later CIA Director, William Casey, who was supposedly at the Bohemian Grove in California when a key meeting was allegedly taking place with Iranians in Madrid.

“No matter how much evidence was produced that poked holes in the official story, the establishment media refused to re-examine the case, and in fact it was largely due to the media’s disinterest in covering this story honestly that my dad launched his independent media project in 1995, including a website [ConsortiumNews.com], newsletter and magazine. The Times’ newfound interest in the story is welcome, but it shouldn’t be forgotten how the media failed the American people at the moment that it mattered most.”

American Dispatches also features a forward by Diane Duston, Robert Parry’s wife, who is also a journalist. Robert Parry’s books include Trick or Treason: The October Surprise Mystery and America’s Stolen Narrative.

Insulin Advocates on the Insulin For All Act of 2023

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After pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced it would lower the price of insulin, another major manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, announced it would begin slashing some U.S. insulin list prices, including pre-filled pens and vials of long- and short-acting insulins, up to 75 percent next year. 

Few drugs have ever had their list prices lowered. The announcements come after public pressure and are seen as the result of years of work by diabetes activists.

IAN DEVANEY; press@t1international.com 
    Devaney is the communications coordinator for T1International, an advocacy organization for people with type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as an adult.

Last week, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Cori Bush (D-MO) introduced the Insulin For All Act of 2023. 

T1International announced that the organization would continue to advocate for all three insulin manufacturers to lower the cost of all of their insulins to an affordable price––and “to do so across the globe.” Three manufacturers currently control over 90 percent of the global insulin market. The current reductions in list price don’t prevent the companies from raising their prices again. Advocates are pushing for price caps to ensure that, once prices drop, insulins will remain affordable long term. 

Devaney told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “For too long, patients with diabetes have been exploited to pad the pockets of pharmaceutical executives and shareholders. The price cap [as outlined in the Insulin For All Act] of $20/vial for all insulins will help patients in the U.S. to avoid dangerously rationing, especially those experiencing lapses in insurance coverage. 

“People with diabetes need more than just insulin. We need testing supplies, delivery devices, and health care to be affordable and accessible for all people with diabetes––and all people who rely on life-saving medicine. Patients deserve dignified and consistent access to affordable medicines and care that work best for them. We also want to see accountability for insulin manufacturers around the world to ensure long-term affordable prices in every country.” Around the world, one in two people who need insulin to survive can’t get it because it is unavailable, unaffordable, or both. 

Media Outlets Miss the Point on “Pandemic Preparation”

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Media Outlets Miss the Point on “Pandemic Preparation” — Interviews Available

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Bill Gates urged the public not to repeat the mistakes made in the Covid-19 pandemic and called on governments to invest in a new network, the Global Health Emergency Corps, which will work to monitor disease outbreaks and stop pathogen spread. But many experts caution against a solely biomedical approach like the one put forth in Gates’s opinion article.

Available for interviews:

ANNE SOSIN; anne.n.sosin@dartmouth.edu 
    Sosin is a public health practitioner, researcher, and educator focused on issues of health equity globally and in rural northern New England. 

Sosin told the Institute for Public Accuracy that she has read one piece after another in an “emerging genre of pandemic pieces about the ‘next pandemic.’” She argues that these pieces focus too narrowly on our “biomedical capabilities” and “ignore the structural and social drivers of pandemics.” That, she says, is where the U.S. is “failing to learn the lessons of this pandemic as we look forward to the prospect of another.”

At the start of the Covid pandemic, congregate settings like prisons, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities were hit first and hardest. The next threat, Sosin said, “will hit the same groups and places that were devastated first. We are going to repeat all the same mistakes––with similar outcomes––until we recognize that equity is the fastest path to impact, and until we center that in our thinking and action.”

Sosin also spoke to issues faced specifically by rural communities like those she works with in northern New England. “Though rural areas experience significant disparities, [many rural] institutions responded quite favorably in the early phase of the pandemic, when we didn’t have biomedical tools.” Many of those communities were able to mobilize early; they were “used to working with limited resources.” She is concerned that narratives around rural communities “will depress our will to act at a time when we need to invest in rural places. Disparities need to orient our investments, not our outrage” at rural communities.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Lily Meyersohn; lilymeyersohn@gmail.com 

March 22, 2023

Institute for Public Accuracy
accuracy.orgipa@accuracy.org 
@accuracyipaccuracy

Push to End Yemen War

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coalition of more than 75 groups is making a multi-pronged push to end the Yemen war which has received minimal scrutiny but has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis as the U.S. has armed Saudi Arabia.

The coalition just put out a statement: “Sen. Warren, House Reps, to Address International Rally Saturday re: Ending U.S. Military Role in Yemen War.”

AISHA JUMAAN, aisha@yemenfoundation.org, @AishaJumaan

ISAAC EVANS-FRANTZ, isaac@actioncorps.org, @theactioncorps
Jumaan is president of the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation. Evans-Frantz is with Action Corps.

The coalition states: “As the March 25th eighth anniversary of the Saudi-led bombing and blockade of Yemen approaches, activists” in numerous cities will be joining in local rallies and a joint one online — see coalition website for more information and specifics on the rallies.

Evans-Frantz said: “This month’s Saudi-Iran deal presents a unique opportunity for peace in Yemen.”

During this month’s Yemen war protests, activists called on federal lawmakers to introduce a new Yemen War Powers Resolution. If brought to the floor for a vote, the coalition states: “Congress could order the president to end U.S. participation in the catastrophic conflict, which the U.S. has enabled for eight years. Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Jayapal and Sen. Sanders sponsored last year’s bipartisan bill, which was cosponsored by over 130 members of Congress.

“Despite the current pause in bombings in Yemen since April 2022, there is no structure to prevent Saudi Arabia from resuming airstrikes, nor to permanently end the Saudi-led blockade of Yemen. The U.S. has enabled Saudi Arabia and the UAE to subject the Yemeni people to over 25,000 air raids. Activists describe the Yemen War Powers Resolution as the most effective way for Congress to stop enabling the war on Yemen, including ending the Saudi blockade.

“Starvation and disease are a daily presence in Yemen; millions of children are malnourished and two-thirds of the country is in need of humanitarian aid. Saudi Arabia’s blockade drives the crisis. For example, almost no containerized goods have been able to enter Yemen’s principal port of Hodeida since 2017, depriving the Yemeni people of needed medical supplies and other essential goods.”

Jumaan said: “The Saudi-led war on Yemen could not have started or continued, for eight years, without U.S. support. The war was announced from Washington D.C., and it is time that its end is also announced from D.C.”

Behind the French Government Machinations that Sparked the Protests

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JEAN BRICMONT, jean.bricmont@uclouvain.be, @JeanBricmont
A noted political commentator, Bricmont said today: “France is rocked by constant demonstrations and strikes. And it is not business as usual, as some American cynics may think. The size of the demonstrations, the violence of the police repression and the fury of the people are quite unusual.

“What is all this due to? A sequence of events. First, the government introduced a new law, raising the mandatory age of retirement from 62 to 64, meaning that one cannot retire before that age even if one is willing to have some cut in pension benefits. It should be recalled that the retirement age was brought down to 60 under Mitterrand.

“There are lots of technical arguments about the ‘necessity’ of this reform, which I will not discuss. What is certain is that there are always other solutions than the one proposed by the government, especially if one were willing to reverse the giveaways to employers resulting from the neoliberal policies in France of the last decades.

“In any case, all polls show a massive opposition of the population and even more of the workers to the reform. After a few token gestures, following various strikes, the government stopped talking to the unions and took its law to the National Assembly. There the pro-government parties do not have a majority. But there are three different blocs in the opposition: the National Gathering (Rassemblement National) of Marine Le Pen, the NUPES (basically the left and the Greens) that used to be directed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the ‘Republicans,’ a remote descendant of the Gaullist party, but whose name was chosen by ex-president Sarkozy, probably in imitation of its American equivalent. [See a communiqué of one of the more active labor unions.]

“Both the National Gathering and the NUPES are opposed to that reform (Marine Le Pen explicitly ran against it during the last presidential campaign). The Republicans are in fact for pushing the retirement age even further but don’t want to openly support the government.

“Because of that, President Macron’s prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, realized that her law would not pass if submitted to a direct vote. Therefore she invoked article 49.3 of the French constitution (going back to its institution by De Gaulle) that enables a law to be automatically adopted, without a vote, unless a vote of no confidence is passed, in which case the government has to resign, after which new legislative elections could be called.

“Of course, the National Gathering and the NUPES voted for the no confidence, but not enough Republicans voted for it and it failed by nine votes. So, as someone said: ‘Nine people who probably never worked in their life condemned millions of workers to work two more years.’ The Republicans know that if new elections took place, they would probably be wiped out by the National Gathering, hence their inconsistent attitude (not voting the law but not voting for no confidence either).

“The fact that the law was adopted by such a procedure and so narrowly has infuriated people even more — hence all the recent demonstrations, strikes, blockings etc.

“Where all this will lead to, only time will tell.”

Citizen Lawmaking Under Attack

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A leading democracy activist reports that state legislatures are undermining the ballot initiative process.

JEFF MILCHEN, Jeff.Milchen@gmail.com, @JMilchen
Founder of Reclaim Democracy!, Milchen recently wrote “The Escalating Attacks on Citizen Lawmaking” in Governing.

He said today: “Progressive ballot initiatives enjoyed historic success nationwide last November, including wins on raising minimum wagessecuring voting rightsexpanding Medicaid, and protecting reproductive rights (pro-abortion-rights voters won in all six states with questions on the ballot, including three GOP strongholds. Now, Republican legislators are attempting to obstruct or sabotage the citizen initiative process in a dozen or more states.

In his recent piece, Milchen reports, “Republican politicians increasingly deem citizens choosing progressive policies an unacceptable intrusion into their powers and push bills to undermine ballot initiatives on three different fronts: erecting barriers to initiatives reaching the ballot, making passage more difficult and corrupting voters’ intent post-passage.”

With residents of a dozen or more states working to place reproductive rights initiatives on their state ballots, GOP attacks against citizen lawmaking are escalating. “Despite tremendous success by progressives last year, the number of state initiatives is declining as barriers are raised,” said Milchen. “This escalating attack on citizens parallels ongoing voter suppression attempts but has received little media scrutiny.”

He added: “Direct democracy is a nonpartisan tool and often is employed by conservative citizens to rein in liberal legislatures, too. The GOP attacks on citizen initiatives endanger a crucial check on legislative extremism and could further undermine democracy.”

Historic “Golden Rule” Ship Sails Again for Nuclear Disarmament

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HELEN JACCARD, helen.jaccard@gmail.com
Jaccard said: “In 1958, a small group of peace activists sailed the Golden Rule to the Marshall Islands to stop nuclear weapons tests. That inspired many peacemakers and peace ships that followed.

“We have recovered and restored the original peace ship and are sailing the Golden Rule for nuclear disarmament. We are heading north and will enter Washington, D.C. on April 2.”

Jaccard is manager of the Golden Rule Project for Veterans For Peace. She said today: “With the danger of nuclear war being greater than ever, it’s become clear that if we don’t stop war, it will stop us.

“We’re seeing escalating dangers … with Russia putting nuclear weapons in Belarus, with the U.S. government’s placement of nuclear weapons in Turkey, Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands and its bellicose Nuclear Posture Review from last year — and recently with Britain’s deployment of depleted uranium ammunition to the Ukraine war.

“The people of the world must demand meaningful implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons from 2017 and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which called on the incumbent nuclear powers to move toward eliminating nuclear weapons back in 1968.

“They have failed in their obligations as the U.S. and Russian governments have even shredded minimal nuclear weapons treaties. We’re not talking about unilateral disarmament. We’re talking about a path to stop this existential threat of nuclear weapons before it’s too late.”

The Golden Rule will sail past and comment on military facilities which are involved with depleted uranium and PFAS contamination around Washington, D.C., see: “The Golden Rule heads to the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River to highlight radioactive contamination at Navy bases.”

See the Golden Rule Project for livestream and other resources including the schedule as the boat heads north to Maine and around the Great Lakes. Future educational stops include Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Chicago.

Israel’s Liberal Supporters Are Taking Their Denial to a New Level

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In “Israel’s liberal supporters speak out against Netanyahu — but they’re still in denial” for Salon, Norman Solomon (executive director of IPA) argues that many Jewish Americans are alarmed by Netanyahu’s coup — but they’re not ready to face the truth about Israel.

Solomon writes: “Israel has been the fruition of a Zionist dream, but at the same time a real-life nightmare for Palestinian people. The occupation of Gaza and the West Bank that began in 1967 has been nothing less than an ongoing, large-scale crime against humanity. Now, early 2023 has brought an unprecedented flood of concern from Israel’s supporters in the United States. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government has made clear its fascistic contempt for Palestinian lives, while even taking steps to curb some rights of Israeli Jews.”

OLIVER ADELSON, oliveradelson03@gmail.com
Adelson recently questioned Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely at the Oxford Union in Britain where he is a student. Adelson is currently in the U.S. and is an intern with IPA.

He said today: “The leading human rights organizations have left no room for ambiguity. Israel is carrying out a policy of apartheid against the Palestinians. The question all Americans must now ask themselves is how to put pressure on U.S. lawmakers to make Israeli aid and political protection conditional on implementation of a just peace settlement and on compliance with international law.”

In response to a recent New York Times report that the Biden administration was giving Israel “warnings that the country’s image as the sole democracy in the Middle East was at stake,” journalist Jamal Dajani wrote: “President Biden is worried about Israel’s image … not that it’s been ethnically cleansing Palestinians for decades, not that it’s an apartheid state, not that it’s the only regime to have introduced nuclear weapons to the Middle East… just its image!”

The High Cost of Upcoding Outpatient Visits

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The Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundations Health System Tracker recently found that over 18 years, claims for outpatient visits to physician offices, urgent care centers, and emergency departments trended towards higher level codes—even among specific, common diagnoses like urinary tract infections and headaches. The trend indicates that providers may be inappropriately billing for more complex, more expensive services, ie. “upcoding,” which contributes to higher outpatient medical spending. In 2021, outpatient spending was 4 percent higher in physician offices and emergency departments than the visits would have been if they were billed at 2011 levels.

LOREN ADLER; ladler@brookings.edu 
    Adler is the associate director of the USC-Brooking Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy. 

Adler told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Patients and consumers pay directly for these higher healthcare costs. They pay for it through cost-sharing as a percentage of the price of procedures, because higher severity codes cost more money. These costs are also passed through to premiums. Most Americans are on employer plans, and the [costs] get passed to employees in the form of lower wages.” 

Going forward, Adler said that the Department of Justice can be more aggressive in identifying fraud and seeking penalties for Medicare upcoding. It’s more difficult to regulate commercial insurers. “We do have evidence that when some of these big ER staffing companies take over, they code more intensely,” said Adler, “and the same services get billed at a higher severity level. But [the companies] would argue that they’re coding correctly.” Lawmakers could try to limit the ability of parent companies to do chart reviews, which tend to persuade providers to upcode, and enact broader antitrust policies that can rein in larger, private-equity backed providers. The No Surprises Act also addresses the issue by creating an external process to dispute codes. 

Home Care Worker Shortage Mitigation in New York State

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The Fiscal Policy Institute released a recent workforce report that found an increasing shortage of home care workers in New York. 

MONICA KLEIN; press@fiscalpolicy.org, (917) 565-0715
    Klein is a cofounder of Seneca Strategies, a political consulting firm.

The report found that although demand for home care workers has increased in recent years, “that increasing demand has not been met with sufficient growth… wages for home care workers have been largely stagnant over the past 10-20 years.” Further, the “market for healthcare workers is distorted by unresponsive Medicaid reimbursement rates,” said Fiscal Policy Institute executive director Nathan Gusdorf. 

Other key findings:

  • Over 4.6 million New Yorkers will be over age 65 by 2035––an increase of 29 percent in the next decade. 
  • Nearly 1 million New Yorkers will require home care by 2035. 
  • Without an increase in wages, the home care worker shortage will hit 1.47 million by 2035. 
  • Home care workers make approximately 40 percent less than workers in nursing care facilities. 

The Big Tech Surveillance Wall Being Built Under the Radar

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TODD MILLER, toddmemomiller@gmail.com, @memomiller

Miller writes at The Border Chronicle and just wrote the piece “Autonomous Surveillance Towers Are Creeping Up the California Coast.”

He said today: “Right now there is a massive expansion of surveillance infrastructure on the U.S. border that is under the radar. In the national discourse while there is a fallacious debate around open borders, the Joe Biden administration is operating the highest budget ever for border and immigration enforcement. The $29.8 billion in the 2023 budget dwarfs Donald Trump’s inaugural budget of $21.2 billion and that of his parting year of $24.6 billion, and follows a much longer-term trend of constant increase. These budgets, a sum that combines Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have translated into more than 700 miles of walls and barriers, over 20,000 Border Patrol agents, hundreds of detention centers (including helping Mexico finance its own immigration prisons such as the one that had the deadly fire last week), a fleet of deportation planes, and billions of dollars in technology.

“Along these lines, the emphasis of the Biden administration has been not a physical, but a virtual wall. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that defends the civil liberties of people in the digital age, released an interactive map on March 20 showing the locations of 319 towers along the U.S. Mexico border. They also obtained documents showing that DHS has a plan to construct 336 new towers over the next decade and are searching companies to contract for that purpose. Biden underscored this in a tweet” recently “that stated ‘The border needs more resources. Not less.'”

Miller writes: “It is surprising, given these record-setting budgets and emphasis on surveillance, that this administration evades the same media scrutiny that bore into Trump during his administration.”

Miller’s books include Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border around the World and Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security. 

Wisconsin Supreme Court Election Shatters Records

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ROBERT KRAIG, robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org
Kraig is executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, which played a “major role in the U.S. Senate race of 2022 and is running a major deep canvass program in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.”

He said today: “The Wisconsin Supreme Court election has shattered all records for spending in a judicial race because there are so many huge issues at stake. For Wisconsin, it will determine whether or not women must suffer an archaic 1849 abortion ban that was passed decades before women had the right to vote. It will also determine whether Wisconsin continues to have the most gerrymandered legislative maps in the U.S., which guarantee GOP super majorities in a 50/50 state. The race also could affect the 2024 presidential election, as a conservative super majority in the legislature and the right-wing Supreme Court could team up to ignore the Wisconsin popular vote and name Wisconsin critical presidential electors for Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, or another MAGA candidate for president.”

Murder in Ecuador of Key Witness in Investigation of Scandal-Plagued President as Impeachment Begins

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The Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that “With the mysterious murder of Rubén Cherres, a key witness in the potential links between the Lasso administration in Ecuador and organized crime has been eliminated.”

See the group’s news release: “Ecuador: Murder of Key Witness in Investigation of President Lasso, Others, Raises More Questions.”

CEPR states: “On Friday, Ecuadorian police found the body of Rubén Cherres, who had apparently been murdered, alongside three other people, in Punta Blanca, a seaside resort on the Ecuadorian coast. Authorities had been looking for Cherres since January 21, when a warrant was issued for his arrest. Cherres’s murder is the latest crime in a series of corruption revelations that have shaken Ecuador, and that implicate Ecuador’s scandal-plagued president, Guillermo Lasso.”

“This multiple murder raises more questions about Lasso’s inner circle and the mounting evidence that the president has been surrounded by corruption and criminal enterprises,” said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center of Economic and Policy Research.

The group adds: “Rubén Cherres was a close collaborator of Danilo Carrera, President Lasso’s brother-in-law and lifelong business associate. Carrera was also an important funder of Lasso’s presidential campaign. Carrera and Lasso share a long history at Banco de Guayaquil, in which Lasso is a majority shareholder, and in the offshore emporium that they built around it. When Lasso was elected in 2021, Carrera replaced him as president of the bank.

“Although he holds no formal position in the Lasso administration, several former government officials have stated that Carrera plays an important advisory role to the president and is a powerful figure in the presidential palace. Notably, Carrera accompanied Lasso on his December 2022 trip to Washington, D.C.”

“Several investigations have alleged that President Lasso has used the United States financial system as a tax haven and to hide assets, in violation of both Ecuadorian and U.S. law,” said Weisbrot.

CEPR notes: “In the last few months, journalists from La Posta have accused Carrera of being at the center of a complex web of corruption. Carrera was first accused of being involved with false contracts in the energy sector. Then leaks of phone and chat conversations implicated Carrera in a cash-for-executive-appointments scheme, including appointments in ministerial positions. The murdered Cherres allegedly was the man tasked to run these schemes, which are now being investigated by the prosecutor general. … Lasso currently faces impeachment proceedings.”

CEPR’s Director of International Policy Alex Main added: “In light of mounting evidence of criminal behavior at the highest levels in Ecuador, the Biden administration should scrupulously avoid expressing positions that could be seen as attempts to shore up President Lasso. Instead, the Department of Justice should show that it takes corruption allegations seriously, no matter where they may emerge, and investigate Lasso and Carrera’s offshore holdings in the U.S.”

See full news release from CEPR for additional information on the murder and surrounding scandal. Also see “Impeachment trial begins against Ecuador’s President Lasso.”

Drug for Opioid Overdoses Now Available Without Prescription

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The Food and Drug Administration has approved 4mg nasal spray naloxone (Narcan) for over-the-counter (OTC) use, the first naloxone product approved for use without a prescription. Naloxone rapidly reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

CLAIRE ZAGORSKI; claire.zagorski@austen.utexas.edu 
    Zagorski is a paramedic and harm reductionist, supporting overdose response programming and research at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy’s PhARM Program.

On Twitter, Zagorski celebrated the OTC approval of Narcan. But there are also tradeoffs to the good news. She told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “When prescription drugs move to OTC, there’s [usually] a period” where the drugs remain expensive. In states like Texas, where Zagorski is based, “keeping [Narcan] prescription-only was confusing. It’s very reassuring and clarifying to organizations that may have been reticent to put [Narcan] out into the community without clinician oversight… We can say it’s safe as many times as we want,” but the public may remain fearful “as long as it’s prescription only.” Zagorski wrote: “As someone who’s worked to get naloxone distributed in a conservative state, the OTC approval is also going to be huge for the message it sends.”

“We need rapid movement” to make Narcan cheap and accessible, Zagorski added. “It’s cheap to produce and easy to show people how to use and administer it. So I’m very hopeful that the price will drop quickly.”

Zagorski has also critiqued some of the higher-dose naloxone products that remain on the prescription market. Higher-dose opioid antagonists often lead to a more rapid onset of intense withdrawal symptoms, known as precipitated withdrawal, like goosebumps, diarrhea, and chills. Zagorski noted that a 4mg dose is already a dose that is most often high enough to reverse respiratory depression (when breathing slows down).

Driver Intentionally Plows Into Food Not Bombs Aid Effort, Killing One

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KEITH McHENRY, keith@foodnotbombs.net, @keith_mchenry
McHenry is co-founder of the global Food Not Bombs movement. He said today: “On Monday, April 2, 2023, Reno Food Not Bombs volunteers Diamond and Clarissa Roman were helping a local woman select items from the clothing donation at the weekly meal when they were struck by a motorist. The three were rushed to the hospital where the woman seeking clothing was pronounced dead. Diamond and Clarissa are in critical but stable condition according to hospital staff. Diamond arrived in the emergency room with a broken back. Clarissa’s condition upon arrival at the ER was significant. She had a broken clavicle, broken ankle, broken ribs, collapsed lung, and a brain bleed.

“The driver, identified as David Turner, made statements to officers that this incident was intentional. He faces one count of open murder and two counts of attempted murder.” See local reports.

McHenry added: “Politicians and the media regularly dehumanize the homeless, portraying those who are forced to live outside as criminals and mentally ill while passing laws they claim will ‘protect’ the public from the homeless and those who help them.

“The city of Houston passed a law against the Food Not Bombs meal outside the main library and has been issuing tickets to the volunteers at every serving. Their first jury trial is set for early June. Authorities in West Palm Beach, Florida recently introduced a local ordinance against their weekly meal. The City of Santa Cruz also passed a similar law against their local Food Not Bombs group.

Santa Cruz city officials coordinate with the local anti-homeless vigilante group Take Back Santa Cruz who encourages violence against the homeless and provides what officials call citizen support for their sweeps of homeless camps and the towing of vehicular homes.

“A man in a white pickup truck has driven at people during the Food Not Bombs meal in Santa Cruz several times in the last half year. Thankfully people were able to jump out of the path of the truck as it hopped the curb. Take Back Santa Cruz treasure Manuel Prado is the husband of Google’s chief counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado. According to emails we received under the public records act he meets with the Mayor, City Manager and the Chief of Police weekly to discuss stranger efforts to criminalize the homeless in Santa Cruz.

“Passing laws that make it illegal to be homeless may suggest it is acceptable to attack those who live outside. Tennessee was the first U.S. state to make it a felony to camp on public property. It was already illegal to sleep on private property and state property, and now public property has been added.

“State Senators in California have introduced SB-31, This bill would ‘prohibit a person from sitting, lying, sleeping, or storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property upon any street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way within 1000 feet of a sensitive area, as defined. The bill would specify that a violation of this prohibition is a public nuisance that can be abated and prevented, as provided.’

“The definition of ‘a sensitive area’ is given as: ‘Sensitive area’ means ‘a school, daycare center, park, or library.’

“The attack against the volunteers in Reno is not the only tragedy Food Not Bombs has faced this year. Officers from multiple agencies shot and killed Tallahassee Food Not Bombs volunteer Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, on Jan. 18 after authorities moved through the camp of activists who were in a forest to protest a planned $90 million police training facility.

“The Food Not Bombs community is saddened by the attack on our volunteers and those they were helping. A gofundme account was set up by our allies at Family Soup Mutual Aid. In true giving form, the Roman family has agreed to this fundraiser on the premise they will provide some burial assistance to the family of the woman who was killed in this tragedy.

“It is no wonder that people believe it is acceptable to assault the homeless and those who are providing help.”

Maryland and Toxic PFAS Chemicals: * McGrath’s Corruption * Balt. Refuses E. Palestine Chemicals

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PAT ELDER, pelder@militarypoisons.org
Elder is the founder of the Maryland-based Military Poisons and has written extensitvely on PFAS and other toxins.

See the piece “Roy McGrath, former CEO of Maryland Environmental Services (MES) and Chief of Staff to former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, dead after manhunt.” McGrath was killed by FBI agents in Knoxville, Tennessee this week after becoming a fugitive by failing to appear at a court date. He was indicted in 2021 on accusations of fraud from when he was head of the Maryland Environmental Service. … “McGrath had worked on campaigns with Hogan since 1992. Hogan announced on March 6, a week before McGrath was expected in court, that he was not seeking the U.S. presidency. …

“McGrath led the Maryland Environmental Service, a mysterious, quasi-governmental agency, for three years. MES board members said they felt uneasy about” McGrath’s financial activity but didn’t want to cross Hogan.

Elder has conducted PFAS test results at his home on the St. Mary’s River finding PFAS levels of 2,070 parts per trillion in oysters; 6,650 ppt in crabs, and 23,100 ppt in rockfish. He notes “health officials say we should not be consuming more than 1 ppt daily.” See profile of Elder from the Baltimore Sun: “Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ found in Maryland water.” Elder charges that the PFAS levels are caused by activity at military bases just nearby, reporting that he has found even higher PFAS levels just near the bases, such as the Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

But Elder’s efforts to highlight dangerous PFAS levels have been attacked. For example, the nearby St. Mary’s College dismissed Elder’s concerns — by echoing alleged findings from the corruption-ridden MES. See Elder’s responses to the claims put forward by MES and the College.

Meanwhile Elder lauds Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott for refusing to accept waste from East Palestine. Notes Elder: “Emergency response teams in East Palestine, Ohio used firefighting foams containing PFAS on the burning railroad cars, according to Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Capito said the EPA had been slow to respond to her office’s inquiries on the use of PFAS-based firefighting foams in combating the fire.

“The EPA has so far resisted calls from Ohio’s U.S. senators to test for PFAS.

“Press reports say 581,000 gallons of mostly firefighting foam used to douse the burning train cars and their hazardous materials have been shipped from the site to Vickery Environmental Inc., an Ohio facility located about 150 miles west of East Palestine.”

More Research Needed on So-Called “Zombie” Drug

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Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has called for a special Drug Enforcement Administration team to help fight xylazine, a sedative used in animals that is often mixed with opioids like fentanyl and heroin. On Twitter, Schumer called xylazine a “zombie” drug that can cause “flesh-rot.”

CLAIRE ZAGORSKI; claire.zagorski@austen.utexas.edu 
    Zagorski is a paramedic and harm reductionist, supporting overdose response programming and research at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy’s PhARM Program.

Zagorski told the Institute for Public Accuracy that xylazine is different than drugs that commonly cause fatal overdose, like fentanyl. “Xylazine is different. On its own, it’s not immediately or rapidly killing people. Instead, it’s creating noxious, longer-acting, poorly understood harms.” In particular, xylazine is known to cause wounds of unknown etiology. Zagorski urges lawmakers, including Schumer, to invest in basic scientific research that would help scientists get information out to healthcare providers and create a consensus around the best way to care for xylazine-related wounds.

The “zombie drug” rhetoric that Schumer and other lawmakers are using to describe xylazine is “tremendously emotionally-resonant,” said Zagorski. “It is a way to whip up emotion in a constituency. It’s really easy to get scared about drugs. But the fact is, we need more concrete answers. We know that at this point, as much as we want to eliminate a particular drug, we have never done that successfully. We just need some money to understand it more, and funds to reduce harm as much as possible.”

“Critical Infrastructure” Laws vs. Protests for Environmental Justice and Police Accountability

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A new investigation by Bolts magazine found that the arrests of environmental justice and police accountability activists have been tied to “critical infrastructure” laws, which make nonviolent protest near oil, gas, electrical and other forms of infrastructure a felony and ratchet up the punishment associated with the actions. 

PIPER FRENCH; piperstrehlowfrench@gmail.com, @PiperSFrench
    French is a staff writer at Bolts, where she reports on California politics, state violence, and the criminal legal system. 

French writes that critical infrastructure laws have “proliferated across the country in the last five years and are now on the books in 19 states due to the efforts of the conservative legislators’ organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the meticulous lobbying of powerful oil and gas companies.”

Recent arrests in Louisiana and in Cop City in Georgia––where activists were protesting the installation of a training center in the Atlanta forest––are some of the first to use critical infrastructure laws against protesters. “Thus far,” French said, “no one’s ever been convicted––but the protesters who’ve been targeted have suffered the consequences nonetheless.”

French told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The charges against the Cop City protesters illustrate how critical infrastructure laws and other anti-protest legislation can be wielded against both the movement for police accountability and the fight for environmental justice. The goal is not necessarily to win in court but to levy charges of such extreme consequence that it effectively quells dissent.”

As U.S. Seeks Assange Extradition, Some Pushback From Australia

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DAVE LINDORFF, dlindorff@gmail.com
RON RIDENOUR, ronrorama@gmail.com
Lindorff and Ridenour are long-time independent journalists affiliated with This Can’t Be Happening. They just wrote the piece “U.S./U.K. Seek to Silence Julian Assange and Free Press, Australia Says ‘Enough,’” which notes recent developments that have received scant attention in the U.S. [Also see recent piece by Andrew Cockburn in Harper’s: “Alternative Facts: How the media failed Julian Assange” which corrects a series of myths about the Assange case.]

Lindorff and Ridenour write: “On April 4, in what could be a major positive development in the 11-year entrapment and four-year solitary confinement by Britain of WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, he was visited for the first time in the hell-hole of Belmarsh Prison by the Australian Labour Party-led government’s new High Commissioner to the U.K., Stephen Smith.

“After Smith’s visit to the tiny cell where Assange has been confined for what will be four years come this April 19, fighting a Washington extradition request that if approved and acted upon would have him facing espionage charges in a U.S. court, Australia’s Labour Party Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that he had ‘said publicly that I have raised the issues’ of the U.S. charges under a century-old Espionage Act that has never before been used against a journalist, and of the extradition effort as well as the 12-year dogged pursuit by the U.S. of the WikiLeaks publisher.

“Albanese said he had ‘encouraged’ his High Commissioner to visit the captive Assange — the first time any Australian consular official had visited this Australian captive since his incarceration in the medieval prison for major violent criminals since his ordeal there began in 2019.

“Albanese, who had pledged during his campaign for PM to work to free Assange finally made it clear on April 5 that he was doing so.”

There’s a protest in D.C. at the Department of Justice from 4 to 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Contact: Ann Wilcox, ann1.wilcox@gmail.com

Predictive Analytics Algorithm for Child Welfare

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Richard Wexler is available for interviews.

RICHARD WEXLER; rwexler@nccpr.info, (703) 212-2006
    Wexler is the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR). 

At the NCCPR, Wexler works to change America’s approach to child abuse, child welfare, and foster care. In recent weeks, NCCPR has brought attention to some of the baked-in problems with the predictive analytics algorithms that are used by child welfare services, or what Wexler calls “family police agenc[ies].” The algorithms create a score, between 1 and 20, for the entire household. This score guides screeners in deciding, as NCCPR put it, “which children will have to endure the trauma of an investigation.” The score stays with both parent and child; using the model, “every former foster youth in America will be considered higher-risk as a parent simply because s/he was placed in foster care.”

Wexler argues that some algorithms disproportionately target poor families of color as well as parents with disabilities, “exacerbating the biases that already exist in the system.” Others, including Hello Baby and CJRM, expand the “onerous surveillance of poor families, especially poor families of color,” by putting even those that have no allegations of child abuse or neglect against them “under a microscope… Every former foster youth in America will be considered higher-risk as a parent.”

Wexler told the Institute for Public Accuracy that designers of these algorithms claim they are only intended to target prevention. In theory, the algorithm “might be used by a health department to choose neighborhoods to send in home visitors [a voluntary program for new parents]. But the home visitors themselves are ‘mandatory reporters’ of child abuse, and they will be sent to these neighborhoods knowing that a ‘scientific’ algorithm has rated the families there at high risk for abusing their children. That alone can bias their assessment of a family and what they see while they’re visiting.”

And Wexler added: “Criteria must be established to screen out most neglect calls––because those calls usually are really calls about poverty… Any allegation must allege actual harm to a child or conditions so dangerous that the child is likely to be seriously harmed.” Wexler argues that “in addition to the enormous harm inflicted on children by needless investigations and foster care,” overreporting creates a “deluge of false allegations [that] overwhelms the system,” making it “harder to find those few children in real danger.” 

Tax Day is Pay Pentagon Contractor Day

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LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN, lkoshgarian@nationalpriorities.org, @lindsaykosh
Koshgarian is program director of the National Priorities Project. They just released their Tax Day 2023 receipt, which found that the average taxpayer paid $1,087 for Pentagon contractors in 2022. The average taxpayer paid $70 for deportations and border control, versus just $19 for refugee assistance.

In her recent piece “A Quarter of Biden’s Budget Will Go to Pentagon Contractors,” Koshgarian notes: “The $1.6 trillion discretionary spending request includes an eye-popping $886 billion for the Pentagon and military. This means that more than half — 52 percent — of the proposed discretionary spending is for the military and war. Almost half of that — or about a quarter of the total discretionary budget — will go to Pentagon contractors.

“This military budget represents a shameful status quo that the country can no longer afford. Families are struggling to afford basics like housing, food, and medicine, and our last pandemic-era protections are ending, all while Pentagon contractors pay their CEOs millions straight from the public treasury.

“While more than half of the federal discretionary budget under the president’s proposal would go to the military, fully two-thirds would go to a combination of the military, veterans’ programs, and heavily militarized homeland security programs.

“That includes funding for two agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), that were flashpoints under the Trump administration. Those agencies are responsible for the millions of deportations that have separated families and devastated immigrant communities, and for militarized border enforcement that has led to unnecessary deaths and abuse of migrants at the southern border.”

Germany’s Nuclear Shutdown Made Its Green Energy Possible

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LINDA PENTZ GUNTER, linda@beyondnuclear.org, @BeyondNuclear 
Gunter is founder and international specialist of Beyond Nuclear. She said today: “The renewable energy revolution needed to save us from the worst of the climate crisis is a matter of political will, not technical know-how, and Germany’s weekend shutdown of its last three nuclear reactors marks a strong step in that direction.

“The German renewable energy boom, known as the Energiewende, was made possible in the first place by the decision to phase out nuclear power. Contained within the Renewable Energy Act of 2000 was a precondition that a nuclear phaseout would only proceed if nuclear power was replaced by renewable energy and not by fossil fuels.

“Germany’s overall energy trajectory is the key here. In 2000, the renewable energy share in Germany was around 6 percent. The nuclear share was 30 percent. In just 23 years, those numbers have been reversed, with today’s renewable share at around 40 percent (down from 54 percent in 2022 but with a commitment now to ramp up implementation), and nuclear under 6 percent before the recent final closures. Germany remains on track to achieve its carbon neutral goal by 2045.

“Critics who falsely ascribe Germany’s continued use of coal, including brown coal or lignite, to the nuclear phaseout, fail to understand that these upticks are driven by the export market, are not for domestic consumption, and largely in response to demands from France, whose nuclear sector collapsed with a more than 50 percent outage last winter. These coal exports are entirely unrelated to the nuclear shutdown. Furthermore, Germany’s lignite and coal production remain well below earlier levels and Germany plans to end coal use by 2038. Some forecasts even see this happening by 2030.

“The nuclear phaseout opened the way for renewable energy growth in Germany. Germany recognizes that renewables are cheaper, faster and safer than nuclear power and come without a lethal waste legacy. The United States would do well to follow this example, rather than continue to fund nuclear power, the slowest, and most expensive of all energy choices.”

More information see: “Beyond Nuclear Talking Points: Germany’s Energy Revolution (‘Energiewende’) is working.”

Reporting Says Israel Hacked Russian Intelligence, Secretly Colluded with the Trump Campaign

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JAMES BAMFORD, washwriter@gmail.com
Bamford recently wrote “The Trump Campaign’s Collusion With Israel” for The NationHe has written extensively about the NSA and other agencies. His latest book is Spyfail: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America’s Counterintelligence.

Bamford writes: “While the American media and political system fixated on Russian President Vladimir Putin” what was completely missed “in the Russiagate investigation of 2016 was the Israeli connection. … The FBI did uncover hard evidence of extensive collusion between close Trump associates and the highest levels of the Israeli government.” After then-Secretary of State John Kerry had pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about negotiating with the Palestinians during a meeting in Rome in 2016, an Israeli agent sent a message to Trump operative Roger Stone: “RETURNING TO DC AFTER URGENT CONSULTATIONS WITH PM [Prime Minister] IN ROME. MUST MEET WITH YOU WED. EVE AND WITH DJ TRUMP THURSDAY IN NYC.”

Bamford highlights that Unit 8200, the Israeli equivalent of the NSA, was “eavesdropping on the Russians and they were picking up all this information that the Russians were getting from the Clinton campaign and the DNC. And rather than giving it to the president of United States, to Obama, which is what an ally is supposed to do, especially one that gets $4 billion a year, they instead were secretly giving it to the Trump campaign, in order to get concessions from Trump when he became president, and hopefully they were going to help make him president.”

Specifically, Bamford notes that Roger Stone had fingered “Randy Credico, a one time friend who had a radio program in New York, as his back channel to WikiLeaks,” which had gotten hold of the DNC emails and would make them public. “Credico had interviewed Assange on his program, but that was four days after Stone’s tweet about [Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John] Podesta’s upcoming time in the barrel. Credico denied under oath that he had acted as a back channel for Stone, and there was never any evidence to show he had.” Bamford effectively argues that Credico was being truthful and it was Israel that was funnelling the information to Roger Stone and the Trump campaign — not WikiLeaks or any of its allies.

Bamford’s recent in-depth piece concludes: “Throughout this chain of events — including the trial, the Mueller Report, and the nearly 1,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee Report — no hint of the involvement of Israel was made public. Despite the clear violations of U.S. law and months of clandestine, high-level attempted interference in the presidential election, no details were released, and no congressional hearings or investigations took place. Nor was there ever a hint in the press, which remained transfixed by Russia.

“The evidence however, suggests that throughout the summer and into the fall of 2016, Israel illegally interfered in the U.S. presidential election. A top agent of Netanyahu was secretly offering intelligence and other covert assistance to Trump to get him elected — all with virtually no oversight or scrutiny by the FBI or the U.S. media, though both had numerous personnel in Israel at the time. Now Netanyahu is back in office as prime minister, and Trump is once again running for president. All the ingredients are there for history to repeat itself, unless the Justice Department and Congress conduct long-overdue investigations into the real source of secret foreign collaboration and interference in the 2016 election, and both the FBI and the media remove their self-imposed blinders when it comes to Israel.”

Major Meetings on mRNA Transfer Technology Program

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Program meetings began this week for the mRNA Transfer Technology Hub, a center to build capacity in low- and middle-income countries to produce mRNA vaccines, located at Afrigen in Cape Town, South Africa. The World Health Organization is a co-host of the forum.

PETER MAYBARDUK; pmaybarduk@citizen.org 
    Maybarduk is the director of Public Citizen’s access to medicines group, which helps partners worldwide working to make medicine available and affordable for all. 

Maybarduk told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The U.S. government has supported the technology transfer program in the past; for instance, the Vaccine Research Center at the NIH supported Afrigen, and scientists at a Texas A&M University facility trained several cohorts of scientists [on mRNA technology].” But the government has not yet given “direct financial support” to the program. South Africa, several European nations, Canada and the EU have also provided financial support. “We’re hoping the U.S. will join those nations to respond to the hub’s request” of $100 million. “That’s number one for us,” he added.

The program meeting agenda is very science-heavy, Maybarduk said. “The scientists and the science are leading.”

He added: “All 15 manufacturers are here, and they’re discussing which pathogens they’re planning to target. It’s well beyond Covid. Today we talked about the topic of malaria mRNA vaccines and HIV mRNA vaccines.” Few labs can currently work with mRNA to develop vaccines––but “the hub’s technology transfer is changing that.” Going forward, there will be “at least 15 manufacturers that would be available to contribute to drug manufacturing in LMICs [low- and middle-income countries].” There is now little doubt that there will be mRNA production in countries like Argentina, Tunisia, Serbia, Ukraine and other member countries. “That’s going to happen,” Maybarduk said. The challenge, however, is the sustainability of development and production. 

The hub plans to put both funds and networks in place to help expand manufacturing capacity. Its central feature is technology transfer, meaning that scientific techniques are to be shared with the community.” 

Diverse Medical School Admissions Seen as Vital for Physician Workforce

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A new study published in the Journal of American Medicine Health Forum analyzed data from more than 81,000 MCAT examinees nationwide from 2015 through 2018, finding that Black and Hispanic exam-takers were less likely to apply to medical school. The study also found that American Indian, Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic exam-takers were also less likely to matriculate into medical school compared to white exam-takers. Further, those populations were also “significantly more likely to report that a prehealth adviser negatively influenced their decision to apply to medical school.”

JESSICA FAIZ; JFaiz@mednet.ucla.edu 
    Faiz is an emergency medicine physician and a UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program fellow. 

Barriers to medical school admission and matriculation include lower parental educational levels and greater financial and education obstacles––such as outstanding premedical school loans––than white MCAT-takers. These barriers largely account for the racial and ethnic differences in application and matriculation to medical school seen in the study.

Faiz, who co-authored the study, says that to combat these problems, medical schools need to “preserve race-conscious admissions, eliminate economic barriers, [and] mandate educating advisors and admissions committees on the enduring effects of structural [and] interpersonal racism that lead to these disparities.” She added: “In the face of potential bans on affirmative action,” the study “shows why race-conscious med[ical] school admissions are essential to diversifying the physician workforce.”

Faiz told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Day in and day out as an emergency physician, supported by centuries of research and personal accounts, I have seen the profound effect of structural and interpersonal racism on patients. One solution is diversifying the physician workforce to reflect our patient populations, but we are not close to achieving this goal. As a researcher, I wanted to look at why. 

“The future of race-conscious medical school admissions is very much threatened by the impending Supreme Court decision which is slated to ban affirmative action. However, it is necessary to consider race, amongst other factors, to achieve health equity through a physician workforce with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Most importantly, the lives of our patients depend on physicians that reflect their communities and question the status quo in medicine. Our research highlights why the current lack of diversity amongst medical students is entrenched in the effects of upstream factors rooted in structural racism, as well as interpersonal discrimination.  

“Generally, the focus of diversifying the physician workforce has been on ‘pipeline’  programs––which are important. However, the effects of upstream factors such as generational wealth… are at the root of why our medical schools are not as diverse as they should be. While our findings largely confirm and provide evidence to support what many students of minoritized backgrounds experience, I would say that the public should find it alarming that despite decades of research, advocacy and dollars, these barriers and disparities still exist among those interested in pursuing a career in medicine.”

Dan Ellsberg Week: Warnings of Nuclear War, “Conspiracy to Commit Omnicide”

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JUDITH EHRLICH, [currently in Australia] ehrlich.judith@gmail.com
Ehrlich is co-director/producer of the documentary “The Most Dangerous Man in America” about Daniel Ellsberg. RootsAction Education Fund has teamed up with the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy to co-sponsor Daniel Ellsberg Week, April 24 to 30, to celebrate his life’s work and “to honor peacemaking and whistleblowing.” (Ellsberg has a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.)

Ellsberg famously released the Pentagon Papers which showed a pattern of deceit on the part of the U.S. government regarding its war on Vietnam.

Ellsberg was a nuclear war planner during the 1950s and ’60s. Since then, he has spent his life writing, speaking, standing up and sitting-in against the threat of nuclear annihilation. He offers chilling clarity about “the nuclear war planners, of which I was one, who have written plans to kill billions of people, a conspiracy to commit omnicide, or near omnicide, the death of everyone.” He asks us, “Can humanity survive the nuclear era? We don’t know. I choose to act as if we have a chance.”

This quote is from one of several animated podcasts released Monday which Ehrlich directed. You can watch and listen here.

Said Ehrlich: “You’ll hear from Ellsberg a shocking reality check and analysis of the dangers of nuclear annihilation. Yet he offers hope of possible defusing of that threat, sharing his unique perspective as a planner of such unfathomable horror.

“When Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, Henry Kissinger (then President Nixon’s national security advisor) called him ‘the most dangerous man in America.’ But those closely held secrets of the war in Vietnam were less explosive than the nuclear secrets that Ellsberg held in his safe at the RAND Corporation. Then a top strategist for the Defense Department, he was party to plans for a nuclear holocaust. After being buried for safekeeping, those documents disappeared in a hurricane that literally blew away his secrets, but that didn’t dampen Ellsberg’s desire to share what he knew.

“He has spent the past six decades putting himself on the line to oppose those evil plans.

“At 92, with his mind sharp as ever, Ellsberg remains an undisputed expert on ‘national security.’ In this unusual illustrated podcast, he shares his unvarnished thoughts about the threat of nuclear annihilation and how it might be defused.

“While we seem able to ignore the reality of so many nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert — amid escalation of a new cold war with heightened nuclear dangers — the risk has only increased. Indeed, the U.S. just enacted its biggest military budget in history, with unprecedented investment in weapons of mass destruction and their deployment.”

To watch the Oscar nominated film on Daniel Ellsberg please go to: MostDangerousMan.org. To host a screening of Ehrlich’s most recent film — “The Boys Who Said NO!” — see here. Ellsberg books include The Doomsday Machine:  Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner from 2017. See more of his writing at ellsberg.net.

Don’t Run Joe Campaign Responds to Biden Announcement

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With President Biden announcing that he will run for re-election, the Don’t Run Joe campaign issued a statement on Tuesday.

JEFF COHEN, jeff@rootsaction.org
Cohen is co-founder of RootsAction.org, the sponsor of Don’t Run Joe.

The Don’t Run Joe campaign said today: “The truth remains that a president is not his party’s king and has no automatic right to renomination. Simply crowning Joe Biden as the 2024 nominee is unhealthy for the Democratic Party and the country.

“In the face of clear polling that shows he is ill-positioned to defeat a Republican nominee, Biden is moving the Democratic Party toward a likely disaster in 2024. As the Democratic standard bearer, Biden would represent the status quo at a time when ‘wrong track’ polling numbers are at an unprecedented high.

“In 2020, incumbent Donald Trump lost as the embodiment of the status quo. Biden narrowly won thanks to massive progressive organizing in swing states. Next year, candidate Biden would be in the position of defending an unpopular status quo. His recent policy decisions, such as repeatedly boosting the fossil-fuel industry, have discouraged and alienated large numbers of grassroots Democrats, particularly young voters. Such issue-based voter suppression is ominous.

“It’s not enough to try to ride in on the negative coattails of revulsion toward the GOP. That strategy failed in 2016. The Democratic nominee should offer bold progressive programs that can build winning electoral coalitions while providing an inspiring roadmap for the future.

“Don’t Run Joe is not endorsing any of the current candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. The party desperately needs a viable progressive candidate with major experience in government or leadership of social-justice movements.”

Ellsberg’s Message: Truth-Telling Stops Wars

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ROBERT ELLSBERG, rellsberg@maryknoll.org
Robert Ellsberg is the publisher of Orbis Books. His most recent book is Lead, Kindly Light: Gandhi on Christianity.

Daniel Ellsberg recently announced he has a terminal diagnosis, but is continuing to be active, recently remarking: “As I just told my son Robert: he’s long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!”

RootsAction Education Fund has teamed up with the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy to co-sponsor Daniel Ellsberg Week, April 24 to 30, to celebrate his life’s work and “to honor peacemaking and whistleblowing.”

Robert Ellsberg edited both of his father’s memoirs: Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers and The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

He said today: “My father’s message has been a message of peace, and he continues to apply it to major crises of our time.

“Whistleblowing, or as he prefers to say, truth-telling, is a major part of that. People often talk about the alleged harm of whistleblowing, whereas he believes there’s incomparably greater damage done in the keeping of secrets.

“The public has a right to know about so much that is hidden from view, especially threats to peace. We need truth-tellers inside major institutions, especially those involved in war-making to share internal secrets. Even if this means risking security clearances, careers or even jail time to share what they know.”

In 2021, Robert Ellsberg wrote the piece “Fifty years ago, my father leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. It changed his life — and mine” for America magazine:

“I had been watching this slow process of my father’s conversion from Cold War insider to committed truth-teller. He had returned from that conference with books by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., along with Thoreau’s famous essay on civil disobedience. Over lunch one day at an outdoor restaurant, he described what he planned to do. In the spirit of civil disobedience, he intended to copy these documents from his safe at RAND and provide them to Congress. It would certainly involve some risk, but he felt it was necessary. Would I help him?

“That is how I happened to find myself, later that day, standing over the primitive Xerox machine in a borrowed office. I didn’t suppose that this might entail any personal risk for me — though it did later cause me to be subpoenaed before a federal grand jury and thus implicated me in a case for which my father would ultimately face 115 years in prison. But that was in the future. On that fall day in 1969, the most exciting moment occurred soon after we arrived — when police officers knocked on the door, my father having neglected to turn off the burglar alarm.”

El Niño Weather and Disease Spread

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New reporting from Grist finds that although the world’s climate has been “dominated by a natural cycle called La Niña” in the past few years––an oceanic phenomenon which results in lower average temperatures worldwide––experts predict that its opposite, El Niño, will take effect sometime this year. The El Niño cycle temporarily causes warmer temperatures and increased precipitation, and will likely result in increased disease spread. 

ZOYA TEIRSTEIN; zteirstein@grist.org 
    Teirstein is a staff writer at Grist, a climate change magazine. She covers the impacts of rising temperatures on human health.

Teirstein told the Institute for Public Accuracy that in the last three years, we have lived under La Niña’s cooling effects. But the climate makeup of the planet is about to change, Teirstein warned, and the arrival of El Niño may “speed up the record-breaking weather events” associated with climate change by creating “above average temperatures on the ocean and on land.” 

Teirstein noted that because “ticks and mosquitoes thrive in warmer conditions,” El Niño is associated with a rise in tick-borne illnesses, dengue fever, and malaria. Some vulnerable regions may also see increases in the spread of cholera, a water-borne disease that is most prevalent in nations without access to sanitation infrastructure. Warmer waters also lead to increases in algae, which can be home to toxic cyanobacteria, as well as the spread of shellfish-related illnesses. 

She added: “Experts told me that places like coastal Venezuela and Brazil” are particularly at-risk of increased malaria spread. A 2003 study found that those regions saw spikes in malaria during and after El Niño years. Other regions where mosquitoes may proliferate more widely, like Colombia, India, Pakistan, and Peru, will also likely be affected. 

New Child Safety Bills Nationwide

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MIT Technology Review reports that dozens of bills purporting to make the internet safer for children and teenagers have been introduced in several states in the last few months. The content of child safety bills varies from state to state. Some focus on limiting data collection from users who are minors. In California, the bills focus on shifting the incentive model for data and online advertising; currently, companies can profit from minors’ online data. 

TATE RYAN-MOSLEY; tate.ryan-mosley@technologyreview.com 
    Ryan-Mosley is a senior tech policy reporter for MIT Technology Review. 

Ryan-Mosley told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “These bills are fragmented and varied,” and it is still mostly unclear how any of these patchwork standards would be enforced from state to state. In many cases it is also still unclear how social media platforms will verify users’ ages––whether by government verification, drivers’ licenses, or some other method. 

The bills generally use “palatable political packaging” to advance new online safety norms for children and teens. Ryan-Mosley says that by using child safety language, the bills are workable and already show some potential for bipartisan agreement. In comparison, bills that focus on privacy, rather than safety, have been more controversial. 

The U.S. still lacks baseline laws to define online privacy for adults and children, making it difficult to “carve out special status for children,” Ryan-Mosley added. Legislators are thus under pressure to define what kinds of privacy protections are reasonable for the larger population. “There’s a requirement to think about risks to other people online, no matter their age.” 

“Europe is years ahead of the U.S. on this front,” Ryan-Mosley said. The European model proposes that tech companies have a “duty of care” to the children who use them. This standard is quite broad, she said. If implemented in the U.S., companies might implement significant changes in terms of how and what children can post on their platforms to avoid legal liability.

DOJ Using “Foreign Agents” Charge to Repress Black Liberation Organizers

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Recently, the U.S. government unsealed new grand jury indictments against members of the African People’s Socialist Party for what civil libertarians argue is protected First Amendment activity.

POIROT COLLIN, cpoirot@jd18.law.harvard.edu
AZADEH SHAHSHAHANI, azadeh@projectsouth.org, @ashahshahani

Poirot is a practicing attorney in Brooklyn and member of the National Lawyers Guild’s New York City Executive Committee. Shahshahani is the legal and advocacy director with Project South and a past president of the NLG.

They just co-wrote the piece “The DOJ Is Using ‘Foreign Agents’ Accusations to Repress Black Liberation Organizers” for The Nation.

They write: “On July 29, 2022, Omali Yeshitela and his wife, Ona Zene, awoke at 5 o’clock in the morning to the sound of flash grenades and drones, as heavily armed FBI agents stormed into their home searching for evidence of organizational ties to the Russian government. Yeshitela is the 80-year-old chair of the African People’s Socialist Party, a Pan-Africanist political party founded in 1972 and headquartered in Florida. His wife is the deputy chair. …

“The FBI surveilled these Black liberation activists and their organizations for years before finally securing a search warrant for their personal residences and other locations connected to the African People’s Socialist Party and the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement. The FBI’s search warrants were based on a federal grand jury indictment, which charged an unrelated individual — Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov — with violations relating to a little-known statute called the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). …

“Since its initial enactment into law, the DOJ has invoked FARA to stigmatize and criminalize political advocacy that is contrary to the interests of the U.S. government. Early illustrative examples include the 1951 indictment of W.E.B. Du Bois, who was prosecuted as an agent of the Soviet Union for having promoted and circulated the Stockholm Appeal, calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. …

“In the face of this targeted political repression, progressive forces should resist the cynical, politicized use of ‘foreign agent’ accusations as a dog whistle to chill and criminalize international solidarity, and should directly oppose the attendant FBI raids and prosecutions when and where they occur. The chilling effect caused by foreign agent accusations is an incredibly powerful deterrent against protected First Amendment activity, and such accusations could lead to financial ruin, as was the case for Du Bois.”

Covid Infection Risk by Occupation and Industry

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A new study in the American Journal of Public Health, “Covid-19 Risk by Workers’ Occupation and Industry in the United States, 2020–2021,” analyzed National Health Interview Survey data to investigate workers’ risk of Covid infection. Workers in health care and the social assistance industries experienced significantly elevated rates of infection.

ADAM GAFFNEY; gaffney.adam@gmail.com 
   Gaffney is a pulmonary and critical care physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

Gaffney, who co-authored the study, told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “As far as I’m aware, this is the first nationally-representative study” that looks into the relationship between Covid-19 incidence and worker occupation and industry. Other studies have looked at death rates, Gaffney noted, “but death can be confounded by health status. The advantage of our approach is that it looks at the U.S. as a whole and that we could try to isolate work from other factors that might affect” the risk of infection, controlling for covariates such as age, gender, household size, and family income. 

“A low-income person might have an increased Covid risk no matter what [their job is]; let’s say they don’t have a car and have to take public transportation to work.” The study’s authors thus controlled for income and for the number of people in the home. They found that the risk of Covid increased if a person was working compared to nonworking and that there was a “significant stepwise increase in Covid risk as the number of workers rose in the house.”

“The occupation and industry impacts,” which show that workers in sectors in healthcare and social assistance industries had a higher risk of infection, “were what we expected. But our study allows us to put a clearer and firmer conclusion about workplace effects. The fact that the number of working adults in the home was so clearly associated [with increased risk] was a strong effect and speaks to how workplace exposures affect everyone” around the worker, not just the worker themselves. More broadly, [our findings] show that workplace risks exist even for people with professions and jobs that are well-compensated.” 

Going forward, Gaffney’s findings indicate that workplaces need to do a better job of protecting workers in future outbreaks. 

Silent Spring

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Spring is a time of new relationships and new growth, writes Miles Richardson, a U.K.-based professor of nature connectedness. But over two-thirds of wildlife populations have been lost since 1970. Each year, spring grows quieter. 

MILES RICHARDSON; m.richardson@derby.ac.uk, @findingnature
    Richardson is a professor of human factors and nature connectedness at the University of Derby. He works on improving the connection between humans and the rest of nature. He blogs at findingnature.org.uk

Richardson spoke to the Institute for Public Accuracy from Staffordshire in the U.K., where spring has begun. “This spring I’ve heard many more blackcaps singing than previous years… the cherry blossoms are starting to emerge.” Richardson says that spring is a crucial season to foster the human-nature bond: “Coming after winter, the colors, sounds and new growth of spring are especially welcome. There’s more light, more opportunity to engage the senses, notice nature’s beauty, the joy, calm and meaning it brings.”

In his blog, Richardson noted that there is a pervasive myth that spending time doing excursions into nature, such as hiking, strengthens a human’s connection to the natural environment. But “when nature is merely a backdrop to recreation,” Richardson said, “it’s less likely that time will be spent engaging with nature… [it] might not involve moments with nature, sensory contact, emotional engagement, care and reflecting on what nature means to you. Developing a close bond with nature is not necessarily about special trips and a part-time relationship, rather simple everyday engagement is important too.” 

Richardson argues that even in urban environments, it is possible to build a close connection with nature. “But for a transformative, deeper change required for a more sustainable future,” structural changes to our cities are necessary. “We’ve found that even in an urban environment, simply noting the good things in nature each day for a week leads to clinically significant improvements in mental health.”

John Roberts Has “Failed to Protect the Integrity of the Supreme Court”

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LISA GRAVES, via Becky Timmons becky@littlething.co, @itstruenorth
Graves is executive director of the watchdog group True North Research. They just released a statement on how John Roberts has failed to protect the integrity of the Supreme Court.

The group notes that Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the need for clear and enforceable ethical rules for the U.S. Supreme Court. This hearing was spurred by in-depth news stories revealing numerous failures by members of the Supreme Court to comply with even minimal rules for disclosure and other ethics standards.

Graves — who oversaw reviews of the financial disclosures of federal judges as a senior advisor in all three branches of government — said: “As Chief Justice, John Roberts’ most important role is to protect the integrity of the judicial branch, but by almost any standard, he has profoundly failed to protect the integrity of our highest court when the ethics of his colleagues have been called into question by their conduct.”

She continued, noting that “For years, Roberts has failed to investigate documented evidence” that Clarence Thomas was “not disclosing private jet and yacht trips and other gifts from a billionaire, but when a draft opinion leaked, Roberts sprang into action, announcing a probing investigation. In refusing to appear at this hearing, he attached a note that each justice contends they themselves are complying with ‘financial disclosure requirements and limitations on gifts’ — despite the manifest evidence that is not true.

“Was Roberts one of the people who advised Thomas he didn’t have to disclose gifts of luxury travel?

“This is one of the many questions that needs to be answered.

“These are not complicated requirements, and I know that because I previously helped lead the part of the judicial branch that oversees the Financial Disclosure Office, in addition to serving as a leading staffer in the Justice Department and the Senate on judicial issues. I have reviewed hundreds of financial disclosure forms of judges and judicial candidates, which are usually filled out by their secretaries and accountants and then reviewed for accuracy and signed by the judges themselves. The language of these forms and the illustrative examples in the instructions are easy to follow.”

How Shadow War Over Ukraine Nearly Triggered Nuclear Holocaust

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A drone attack on the Kremlin on Wednesday again highlights the possibility of cataclysmic escalation resulting from the Ukraine conflict.

JAMES BAMFORD, WashWriter@gmail.com
Bamford recently wrote the piece “The Most Dangerous Game: How Shadow War Over Ukraine Nearly Triggered Nuclear Holocaust” in The Nation, which summarizes Bamford’s findings: “Unnoticed among the trove of documents in the Pentagon leak is this account of how a miscommunication between a Russian pilot and his base came perilously close to starting World War III.”

Bamford has written extensively about the NSA and espionage. His latest book is Spyfail: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America’s Counterintelligence.

Bamford also recently wrote the piece “The Trump Campaign’s Collusion With Israel” which Sam Husseini of IPA questioned the State Department about during Wednesday’s briefing, see video.

Bamford’s most recent report gives specifics regarding when tensions were especially high last September: “According to a Pentagon document marked SECRET/NOFORN (allegedly leaked by Airman Jack Teixeira on a Discord group chat), as the British RC-135W entered the airspace above the Black Sea that September morning, a pair of Russian SU-27 fighters scrambled skyward to shadow him. Then, responding to an order from his command center (likely Belbek Airbase on Crimea) a Russian pilot launched a missile directly at the NATO reconnaissance jet packed with 30 or more Royal Air Force personnel. In that moment, the Russian fighter pilot came very close to igniting World War III.”

But, Bamford reports: “The only thing that saved the dozens of British crew members from what the secret U.S. documents called a ‘near shoot down’ was a technical glitch that caused the missile to miss its target.”

Concludes Bamford: “The sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline, Russia’s nearly shooting down a British spy plane, the secret and growing involvement of US and NATO troops on the battlefield — these are all clear warnings that very bad things can happen very quickly. The only realistic solution is to replace the intelligence agents with intelligent diplomats as quickly as possible, and to then work out a speedy cease-fire and a negotiated settlement to the war. In a conflict between nuclear powers, that should have been the first step, rather than the last.”

Mass Shooters are Disproportionately Military Vets

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DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com, @davidcnswanson
Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is the director of World BEYOND War, a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.

He said today: “Of course statistically virtually all veterans are not mass shooters, because very few people are mass shooters. But disproportionately mass shooters are veterans — at least 36 percent last time I reviewed the data. If we are going to take an interest in other demographic trends regarding this tiny group of people — their gender, mental health, criminal records, racist ideologies — we can take an interest in the fact that our tax dollars trained many of them to shoot. We can also notice that many non-veteran mass shooters dress, speak, and act — in the commission of their crime — as if they are participating in a military. There is a structural problem in training so many people to kill — including the recent killer on a New York subway — and a cultural problem in glorifying it. I’m looking at you, Hollywood.”

British Monarch’s Anti-Catholic Pledge

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Fr. SEAN Mc MANUS, Sean@IrishNationalCaucus.org

Fr. Mc Manus is founder and president of the Irish National Caucus. He said today: “The coronation of King Charles and the words of the oath he swore — solemnly, formally, and as King — raises anew the issue of state-sponsored anti-Catholicism in the UK and Northern Ireland. The Guardian in a 2001 editorial highlighted this issue, describing ‘the basis for the modern-day monarchy — an act of parliament which explicitly discriminates against Catholics.'”

Charles said while kneeling before clergy: “I Charles do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.” See video.

Mc Manus added: “If the sectarian words of the King’s oath don’t mean much to the average person, their anti-Catholic resonance mean everything to a significant number of extreme Orange/Protestant/Unionist supremacists in Northern Ireland.” But he added, it was not the the Irish Protestants “who created Northern Ireland, but the London Parliament by its ‘Partition Act’ (December 23, 1920), with the assent of the King of England, George VI, the grandfather of King Charles.”

In his piece in the Irish Echo, “Don’t mention anti-Catholicism in the North,” Mc Manus wrote: “In the early 80s, I launched a cam­paign to expose the constitutional foun­dation of anti-Catholicism in Ireland: The Act of Settlement, 1701 — the foun­dation stone of the Royal Family.

“This act still today forbids a Catholic from being the monarch. It’s like having a provision in the U.S. Constitution bar­ring a black person from being presi­dent.”

See IPA news release from 2017: “DUP Deal Highlights British Anti-Catholicism, Threatens Peace in Ireland.”

Attacks on Gaza “Cynical Move” by Netanyahu; Part of “Ongoing” Nakba

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The UN Security Council is set to meet Wednesday afternoon regarding Israel.

FRANCIS BOYLE,  fboyle@illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. His books include Palestine, Palestinians and International Law and World Politics, Human Rights and International Law. See relevant past IPA news releases. Boyle was an early advocate of divestment/disinvestment in Israel.

STEFANIE FOX, stefanie@jewishvoiceforpeace.org, @jvplive

Fox is executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace which is joining with American Muslims for Palestine and other groups to protest Israeli policies at a rally at the Mall in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, May 14 at 1 p.m — “Nakba at 75.” See listing of protests around the U.S. by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

JVP issued the following statement: “We are grieving and enraged by the Israeli government’s assault on Palestinians in Gaza … that killed at least 15 Palestinians, including 4 children. …

“As Palestinians in Gaza slept, the Israeli military led an aerial bombardment of the densely populated cities of Gaza, breaking a tenuous ceasefire.” Then, “the Israeli military led an incursion into the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, reportedly injuring over 145 Palestinians, including 12 people who were shot with live fire. Our hearts break in the face of this latest round of Israeli escalation and violence.

“It’s been less than one year since Israel’s horrific three-day assault on Gaza last August, when the military killed over 49 Palestinians, including 17 children. These brutal attacks are not part of a ‘conflict’. They are one of the world’s largest militaries bombarding 2 million Palestinians trapped under a suffocating blockade.”

The attacks “are a clear and cynical move by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attempt to save his own political career and unify his crumbling far-right and extremist government behind the drums of war. The Israeli government is proving that, as always, it awards no value to Palestinian lives.”

Fox noted: “In just under one week, Palestinians will mark 75 years since the Nakba — the catastrophe, in Arabic.” The recent attacks we are witnessing “are a cruel reminder that the Nakba is not just a historical event, but an ongoing structure of violence and ethnic cleansing. American Jews are waking up, and we must join in solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for liberation.”

See from Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper: “Gaza Assassinations Were All About Israeli Politics.” The paper writes: “Now that Ben-Gvir’s threat to the coalition has been lifted, we can only hope that Netanyahu will not be drawn into a lengthy conflict in the hope of suppressing the protest against him and ensuring the coalition’s survival.”

Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by the Israeli military on May 11, 2022, a year ago Thursday. See from The Intercept: “Israeli Forces Deliberately Killed Palestinian American Journalist, Report Shows.”

“Preying on the Dying”

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In a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Preying on the Dying: Private Equity Gets Rich in Hospice Care, researchers provide evidence that in the last two decades, a growing number of private equity firms have exploited gaping holes in oversight and regulation of the hospice care industry.

The report finds that “loopholes built into the payment model used by [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS)] provide incentives for for-profit hospice agencies to game the system, legally stealing money from Medicare while degrading the quality of patient care. These loopholes create incentives for financial actors such as private equity to target hospice providers for buyouts. Lax and fragmented oversight facilitates consolidation of hospice agencies into large chains in this fragmented industry… Compared to for-profit providers, private equity owners have even more incentives to game the system because they must service debt and deliver on their promise of outsized returns to their investors. Too often, gaming the system spills over into fraud––charging Medicare for services that were not provided or illegally enrolling ineligible patients.”

EILEEN APPELBAUM; appelbaum@cepr.net, @EileenAppelbaum
    Appelbaum is a co-author on the report and co-director of CEPR.

Appelbaum told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The privatization of the hospice industry started in around 2000. Private equity entered [the sector] a little later.” Now, “most nonprofits have been bought out––mostly by publicly traded organizations and some by private equity.” Unfortunately, though the Federal Trade Commission “automatically reviews acquisitions of over $110 million,” because most hospice deals “fall under that price threshold… there’s no review by antitrust agencies.” Appelbaum said that the “FTC needs to think about how to examine these smaller acquisitions. They need to look at what this does to competition.”

Ultimately, however, Appelbaum said that “CMS should be in charge of oversight. They are the ones who are ultimately responsible for enforcing the [rules] that already exist.” Right now, CMS pays a flat per diem reimbursement rate for hospice patients. In recent years, private equity-owned hospice firms have relied on enrolling more patients with dementia, who typically require less medical care and attention and tend to live for more than six months, compared to higher-cost patients with end-stage cancers or heart conditions. Privately owned hospices “cannot take patients being released from the hospital, because they’re very expensive to care for. They end up in [nonprofit] organizations who are overloaded with expensive patients.” Appelbaum urged CMS to “pay more for patients with higher acuity,” rather than a flat fee.

Appelbaum said she and her co-authors were “shocked” by the lack of regulation. “Our takeaway is that private equity can exploit this system. CMS is so deficient in how it regulates hospice.”

Changes to Texas End-of-Life Procedures

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The Texas House has approved a bill to amend the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA), a change that would change the procedure for Texas patients who are on life-sustaining treatments with no hope of recovery. Controversy over the current Advance Directives Act focuses on the ability of hospitals to discontinue life-sustaining treatments after 10 days if the attending physicians consider the treatment to be futile and cannot find a different facility to care for the patient, even if family members disagree with the choice. The new bill will increase the time from 10 days to 25 and update the process for ethics committee meetings.

TADA has been on the books since 1999, when it was passed as a compromise between medical professions and Texas anti-abortion-rights groups. The Texas Right to Life organization has consistently pushed for the law’s repeal. 

THADDEUS POPE; thaddeus.pope@mitchellhamline.edu 
    Pope is an expert on medical law and clinical ethics with a focus on patient rights, healthcare decision-making, and end-of-life options.

Pope told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “These changes have been called for for a long time.  More than 40 bills have been introduced to amend this law since the early 2000s, and they almost all failed. This time is different; the amendment was pre-drafted and vetted by stakeholders, including Texas Right to Life and the Texas Medical Association. Those parties haven’t agreed on the bill since 1999.

“Across the country, states have increasingly acted to constrain the ability of clinicians to unilaterally take action to stop life-sustaining treatment over the patient or family objections. Fifteen years ago, there was a thought that more states would follow Texas and permit clinicians to stop treatment when it was futile, inappropriate, non-beneficial,” and so forth. “But in fact, the rights and legal ability of hospitals and clinicians to act over patient and family objections has been constrained in a number of states.” Until now, “Texas was unique in keeping that broad scope of permission for clinicians and hospitals to do what they thought was appropriate.”

Venezuelans Fleeing Sanctions Turned Away at the U.S. Border

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The Biden administration is under fire for turning away Venezuelan asylum seekers at the U.S. border.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research notes in “House Democrats Worried that Migration Surge Caused by U.S. Sanctions Could Cost Them in 2024” that: “Venezuelans and Cubans hurt by sanctions-caused damage are a rapidly increasing proportion of migration to the U.S. over the past year.”

ADRIENNE PINE, apine@ciis.edu@adriennepine
Pine is visiting professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, Department of Anthropology and Social Change, and co-editor of Asylum For Sale: Profit and Protest in the Migration Industry.

She just appeared on “Flashpoints” with Dennis Bernstein to discuss the influx of Venezuelan migrants at the U.S. border.

Describing the origins of the crisis, Pine said, “In 2015, Former President Obama issued the first sanctions, which are a form of collective punishment against Venezuela. Venezuela had a huge hit to its economy. It was not able to import food, it was not able to import medicine — even if it did have the money — because of U.S. unilateral coercive measures. So people started to leave.

“More recently, many Venezuelans have made the very dangerous trek through the Darien Gap toward Central America, Mexico, and ultimately the United States. They did this only to find that, while the United States has been using the increased migration of Venezuelans in a cynical, propagandistic way to claim they’re fleeing a dictatorship, the U.S. is not welcoming Venezuelans with open arms when they come.”

Pine noted that the asylum ban (preventing the majority of Venezuelan asylum seekers who don’t have access to the Biden administration’s limited parole program at the border from seeking refuge in the United States) stands in contrast with historical U.S. asylum-granting policy: “Citizens from countries that are perceived as enemies to the United States are more likely to be granted asylum than citizens from countries that are not perceived as enemies to the United States regardless of the actual level of violence that is targeting populations in the countries…

“Venezuelans are coming to the U.S. border thinking that they’re going to get a warm welcome because this is the rhetoric of the United States and they’re finding that the reality is very different.”

Pine remarked on the policies of the Biden administration: “The Biden replacements for Title 42 and Remain in Mexico are proving to be even more dangerous than Trump’s policies, and the administration has been deporting people without any due process at record pace.”

Former National Security Officials in NYT ad: “War is a Racket”

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On Tuesday, a group of former high-ranking national security fellows, the Eisenhower Media Network, released an open letter appearing as a full-page ad in the New York Times, calling for a diplomatic end to the Russia-Ukraine war.

The ad — which can be seen here — includes an important timeline of events and a map showing U.S./NATO military bases near Russia and a comparison of what that would look like if the “shoe were on the other foot.”

The letter states: “The immediate cause of this disastrous war in Ukraine is Russia’s invasion. Yet the plans and actions to expand NATO to Russia’s borders served to provoke Russian fears. And Russian leaders made this point for 30 years. A failure of diplomacy led to war. Now diplomacy is urgently needed to end the Russia-Ukraine War before it destroys Ukraine and endangers humanity.”

“Competent and wise diplomacy could have prevented the Ukraine War and it most likely could have ended it already,” Matthew Hoh, Associate Director, Eisenhower Media Network; Former Marine Corps officer, and State and Defense official said. Only diplomacy will end this stalemated war, there is no military victory possible for either side.”

“I worked in Space Command as a senior advisor to the Commander, where our land-based nuclear arsenal was under his command. This is the most fearful I have ever been of a nuclear escalation,” Dennis Fritz, Director at Eisenhower Media Network; Command Chief Master Sergeant of the US Air Force (retired) said. “My goal is to bring awareness to as many people as possible the backstory of how we got here and how ‘silence is complicit’ if I disagree with our current policy and role in the Russian/Ukraine conflict.”

Historically, the fellows say, Russia has been invaded by foreigners and is therefore wary of enlarged NATO borders. With that in mind, this situation should be considered with perspective and understanding versus weapons and destruction.

“As Dan Ellsberg has warned courageously and unceasingly, we — the world — are at the nuclear brink again, perhaps closer to the edge than ever before. It only requires one step to go over and then our steps end forever,” Colonel, U.S. Army (retired) Lawrence Wilkerson said. “If that’s not sufficient reason for a return to diplomacy, our extinction is at hand; the timing is all that is in question.”

The letter states: “Why did the U.S. persist in expanding NATO despite such warnings? Profit from weapons sales was a major factor. Facing opposition to NATO expansion, a group of neoconservatives and top executives of U.S. weapons manufacturers formed the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO. Between 1996 and 1998, the largest arms manufacturers spent $51 million ($94 million today) on lobbying and millions more on campaign contributions. With this largesse, NATO expansion quickly became a done deal, after which U.S. weapons manufacturers sold billions of dollars of weapons to the new NATO members.

“So far, the U.S. has sent $30 billion worth of military gear and weapons to Ukraine, with total aid to Ukraine exceeding $100 billion. War, it’s been said, is a racket, one that is highly profitable for a select few.”

Biden in Hiroshima as His Policies Threaten Nuclear War

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Joe Biden just arrived in Hiroshima for the G7 Summit.

JOHN STEINBACH, johnsteinbach1@verizon.net
Steinbach is co-founder of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area, which has regularly organized events with survivors of nuclear bombings in Japan.

He said today: “In the face of a U.S.-initiated proxy war in Ukraine that has brought the world to the brink of direct U.S.-Russian military confrontation and nuclear catastrophe, Biden’s visit to the A-bombed city of Hiroshima is an insult to peace-loving people worldwide, especially the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“The public is shockingly oblivious to the threat of global nuclear war. This is the most dangerous period, even exceeding the Cuban missile crisis. The proximate cause is the crisis in Ukraine, but the stage was largely set by the U.S. government killing a series of treaties. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed in 1972, was a bedrock. It made clear that ABM systems could only work in the context of a massive first strike. George W. Bush terminated the treaty in 2002 despite Russian objections.

“Largely as a result of public revulsion at the possibility of nuclear war and massive protests in the U.S. and Europe in the 1980s, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987 — this made nuclear war less likely. But Trump ended that Treaty in 2019, provoking Russia.

“Biden now should re-enter those treaties. Instead, we saw the increased militarization of Ukraine and even President Zelensky indicating his desire for nuclear weapons in Munich in January of 2022. This further provoked Russia.

“If there’s one thing the survivors of nuclear bombings — hibakusha — keep reminding us, it’s that a nuclear war now will not be limited and will not be survivable. Because of SALT and START Treaties, the number of nuclear weapons has gone down — from 70,000 to less than 15,000 today. But today’s weapons are more accurate and larger — and more usable.”

Amoxicillin Shortages

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In a recent opinion piece for STAT, pediatrician Nishant Pandya detailed how shortages of critical medicines––including amoxicillin, the generic antibiotic––harmed pediatric patients, their families and their providers during last winter’s “tripledemic,” or the confluence of flu, Covid-19, and RSV that overwhelmed hospitals and urgent care clinics. 

NISHANT PANDYA; nishantcpandya@gmail.com 
    Pandya is a pediatrician in New Haven, Conn. 

Pandya told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “I was inspired to write this article because of the tripledemic––the three viruses that spiked last year––which put a lot of strain on the healthcare system.” It was a stressful time for families as well as providers. “This was a whole other unexpected variable that was incredibly stressful. We couldn’t rely on frequently-used medications or trust that we could prescribe this medication and the patient could get it. I was confused and curious why a medicine so common and frequently used could be in shortage. Why wasn’t our system prepared to handle a bit of strain?”

The shortage harmed both families and children, Pandya said, “and made us as providers use finite hours that we could have used to be with patients calling pharmacies. The pharmacies were overwhelmed. Pharmacies often didn’t know where stocks were. They can’t compare stocks between pharmacies.”

Pandya has two recommendations going forward. First, the U.S. has “only one manufacturer that produces amoxicillin. The majority of producers are international; different components are sourced from different areas. Increasing production [currently] requires changes in multiple locations, leading to delays.” Second, Pandya urges pharmacies to “create international [modes of] communication. At the moment, there is no centralized form of communication and no way to organize information” about medication stocks. 

Pandya notes that like many generic medicines, amoxicillin is produced in response to consumer demand. “Because it’s generic, it’s not profitable [for pharmaceutical companies]. Whenever there’s an unexpected spike in demand, we’re not ready to respond to it. We need to be able to respond to acute changes in health; we can’t just use predictions. It’s disappointing to learn that the heart of this challenge is due to critical medication not being profitable.”

The term “shortages” hides the reality of the problem, Pandya said. “There are human costs to these decisions that are made to maximize profit. There’s a harsh human cost, and people don’t see it unless you’re unfortunately sick or work in the healthcare industry.”

Pakistan’s Khan Against the Generals — and the U.S.? 

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Tariq Ali writes in “Khan Against the Generals” that: “For much of the past week, former Pakistani Prime Minster Imran Khan’s house in Lahore has been surrounded by armed police, and the Rangers — a repressive force straddling the police and Army but under civilian control — have been on standby. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has ruled that Khan should not be arrested, but he doubts he will stay out of jail for long. The entire leadership of his party, the PTI [Pakistan Movement for Justice], is currently behind bars. A state crackdown is in full swing.

“This marks a dramatic escalation of the political war between the PTI and the Army, along with its favoured politicians and the government it manoeuvred into place after removing Khan from office last April. The new administration is essentially a coalition of Pakistan’s dynastic parties led by Bhutto-Zardari and the Sharif family. Since it was installed, Khan has repeatedly accused the U.S. of orchestrating the congressional coup against him — motivated by his refusal to support their interventions in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Large numbers of anti-American protesters have taken to the streets, demanding his reinstatement. …

“Every opinion poll shows him sweeping the country at the next general election. On 8 May, a nervous Army leadership — by no means unified — and a Sharif government fearing a political wipeout, took the decision to arrest Khan by sending in a team of Rangers while he was in the High Court dealing with an old corruption case. He was immediately dragged off to a squalid prison.”

JUNAID AHMAD, junaidsahmad@gmail.com
Ahmad just wrote the piece “Following failed kidnapping of Imran Khan, Pakistan’s regime desperately cracks down on dissent.” He states: “When the military briefly kidnapped Khan in May, the U.S. government refused to comment on the act, which amounted to a de facto endorsement.

“Since then, the State Department has only issued vague declarations on the need to respect the ‘rule of law’ and ‘democratic principles’ (despite the fact that the regime it is currently backing was not elected).

“However, there may be some divisions emerging in the Washington establishment over this whole gruesome affair in Pakistan.

“Even notorious neoconservative U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, who helped oversee the war on Afghanistan, has conceded that Pakistan is now a ‘military dictatorship.'”

Ahmad teaches law, religion, and world politics in Pakistan and is the director of the Center for the Study of Islam and Decoloniality.

Residents on Strike At Hospital Hard-Hit by Covid

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Resident doctors went on strike early this week at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, which was particularly hard hit by Covid-19 in 2020. This is the first doctors’ strike in New York City in 33 years. One hundred and fifty trainee doctors walked out to push back against the low pay they receive for “extremely long hours and grueling work.” The doctors are demanding pay parity with non-union physicians at Mount Sinai, the hospital that runs Elmhurst’s residency program. Elmhurst residents currently earn $7,000 less per year than non-union physicians at Mount Sinai. 

SUNYATA ALTENOR; communications@cirseiu.org  
    Altenor is the communications director of the Committee of Interns and Residents / SEIU. 

Altenor told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Resident physicians have had enough––of profit-driven health care, of being exploited, of being asked to do too much with far too little. They are rising up and that is no more clear than at Elmhurst Hospital, where they are on strike for the first time in more than 30 years of CIR [Committee of Interns and Residents] history after bringing Queens through the pandemic. Mount Sinai can end their strike right now… by coming to a resolution that honors their labor.” 

In July, Mount Sinai residents will begin to make $11,000 more than Elmhurst residents currently make. (A first-year resident at Elmhurst makes $68,000; those at Mount Sinai will make $79,000.)

Rachel Nass, who is on the CIR picket line, writes that Elmhurst “residents are calling for good faith bargaining and movement towards their demand of pay parity with their fellow Mount Sinai residents across the river in Manhattan.”

Is Biden Prolonging the Yemen War?

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Ryan Grim of The Intercept writes in “The Yemen War Can Be Over — If Biden Wants It” that: “The U.S. is slow-walking peace negotiations, effectively pushing for a resumption of the war.”

Grim writes: “Everybody else directly or indirectly involved — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Houthis, China, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, etc. — appears to want to put the war behind them. A ceasefire has held for more than a year, and peace talks are advancing with real momentum, including prisoner exchanges and other positive expressions of diplomacy. Yet the U.S. appears very much not to want the war to end; our proxies have been thumped on the battlefield and are in a poor negotiating position as a result.

“Reading between the lines, the U.S. seems to be attempting to slow-walk and blow up the peace talks. Triggering a resumption of hostilities would unleash yet another Saudi-led bombing campaign that could win U.S. proxies better terms when it comes to control of the strategically positioned Yemeni coastline. (The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden link the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean at the southwestern corner of Yemen, an area so geopolitically important to the flow of oil and international traffic that the U.S. has one of its largest bases, in Djibouti, across the strait.)…

“The Houthis, for their own political and literal survival, need the blockade lifted. If the talks drag on for too long, the Houthis are likely to resume cross-border strikes. Everybody on all sides knows that, which is why the Saudis appear eager to get to a final deal, while the U.S. keeps throwing up new conditions.”

Grim quotes Erik Sperling, executive director of Just Foreign Policy: “It’s surreal to think that the Biden administration is more hawkish on Yemen than the brutal regime of Mohammed bin Salman, but that’s the current reality,”

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, hassan@fcnl.org, @HassanElTayyab

Legislative director for Middle East policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, El-Tayyab, said: “I’m very concerned that the administration is adding all these conditions to a full U.S. military exit and a Saudi-Houthi deal. I’m worried that they’d use the idea that we need to have a perfect inclusive peace as a precondition to lifting the blockade. … Yemenis should be allowed to chart their own future. It increasingly seems like the Biden administration would rather slow down diplomatic progress instead of finally just ending the Saudi-Houthi conflict.”

Is There a Ceiling on Military Spending? New Report: 62 Percent of Budget on War and Militarism

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The National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies just released a “critical new analysis of the militarized budget” in the United States, “The Warfare State: How Funding for Militarism Compromises our Welfare.”

The new report found that this past year, “out of a $1.8 trillion federal discretionary budget, the U.S. spent a staggering $1.1 trillion — or 62 percent — of that budget on militarism and war.”

The group notes: “Threats to cut spending for vital domestic programs have featured prominently in the debt ceiling debate in recent weeks, but spending on militarism has been almost entirely exempt from the discussion. Meanwhile, clawing back failed military, homeland security and law enforcement spending could instead fund programs and measures to address the true needs of American communities.”

Other findings: “Less than $2 out of every $5 in federal discretionary spending was available to fund investment in people and communities. …

“The U.S. spent $16 on the military and war for every $1 that was spent on diplomacy and humanitarian foreign aid. …

“The U.S. spent $51.1 billion for homeland security, approximately half of which goes to ICE ($8.8 billion) and CBP ($17.4 billion).”

“When we invest so heavily in militarism at home and abroad, we deprive our own communities and people of solutions to problems that pose immediate security threats,” said co-author Lindsay Koshgarian, Program Director of the National Priorities Project. “We underfund programs to end poverty, provide affordable housing, bolster public education, and protect clean air and water at our peril. Spending on militarism takes up the majority of the federal discretionary budget, and it has grown faster than all other spending. If we keep up these patterns, we are hurtling toward a future where we can’t afford the basics of a civilized society.”

“We keep hearing that our government can’t afford nice things — or necessary things — for everyone. And yet militarized spending in the U.S. has almost doubled over the past two decades, and the military budget is now approaching its highest point since World War II,” said co-author Ashik Siddique, Research Analyst at the National Priorities Project.

Alliyah Lusuegro, Outreach Coordinator of the National Priorities Project added: “Tens of billions of dollars are funneled into ICE and CBP every year in an effort to militarize the border, separate families, and detain and deport immigrants and people seeking asylum.”

Supreme Court Targets Wetlands

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TARAH HEINZEN, theinzen@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Heinzen is legal director of Food & Water Watch. On Thursday, the group issued a statement: “Today the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of Sackett v. EPA, a case that challenged long-established Clean Water Act protections for wetlands. The decision greatly limits such protections, drastically narrowing the ability of the Clean Water Act to restrict commercial development of sensitive areas. Wetlands are critical to protecting clean water, providing habitat, and controlling flooding. Today’s decision will leave tens of millions of acres of wetlands without protection across the country, and will likely also remove protections for small streams.”

Heinzen added: “We are outraged, though sadly not surprised, that this ultra-right-wing Supreme Court would choose to decimate long-standing common-sense protections for sensitive wetlands throughout the country. Wetlands play an integral role in protecting downstream waterways and reducing flooding — which will only worsen as climate change makes extreme weather more frequent. Today’s decision rejects this established science in favor of corporate developers’ profiteering.

“The Biden administration and states must get creative and use every tool at their disposal to protect our rivers, streams and wetlands from this devastating decision.”

“Biden’s Debt Ceiling Cave”

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JEFF HAUSER,  hauser@therevolvingdoorproject.org, @revolvingdoorDC
In response to the emergence of the structure of a potential deal between President Biden and Speaker McCarthy, Revolving Door Project Executive Director Jeff Hauser issued the following statement on “Biden’s Debt Ceiling Cave and the Media’s Incompetent Coverage“:

“There are three aspects to the substance and coverage of this debate that have been infuriating.

“First, the notion that ‘modest cuts’ to spending are inconsequential. As we’ve sought to make clear in the past few weeks — indeed, the past several years — any deal is a disaster since most government departments and agencies are currently severely underfunded. ‘Non-defense discretionary spending’ is a bloodless way to refer to the agencies required to ensure clean air, safe food, safe workplaces, and protect Americans from all forms of corporate abuse. These agencies bore the brunt of the Obama-Boehner budgets, were thrashed further by the kleptocratic administration of President Trump, and have seen their purchasing power undercut by inflation. These agencies require redoubled investment rather than capricious cuts, and it is the role of the media to make the reality of the work these agencies do clear to the public that depends upon them.

“Second is the role of inflation. Spending in fiscal year 2023 was negotiated in calendar 2022, and the nominal amounts negotiated in the fall of 2022 are now going to become ceilings for spending throughout most of 2025 even as it’s likely that inflation will undercut the budget’s actual spending power by 7-10 percent. Additionally, the population of the United States is likely to increase by approximately 1 percent over that time. As such, ‘flat spending’ implies a further reduction in real government funding per person after a decade of Obama-Boehner austerity, followed by Trump’s assaults on the administrative state. This deal would be a catastrophe for government capacity, and coverage that ignores the role of inflation (hardly a low profile issue in 2023!) is wildly and indefensibly misguided.

“Third, the notion that the President was trapped under the gun of McCarthy is ridiculous. Because the debt ceiling is an unconstitutional, incoherent excuse for a law and because there is an active lawsuit from the National Association of Government Employees, Biden’s status as a hostage merely reflects an advanced case of Stockholm Syndrome. As many have argued (e.g., read here and here), Biden has a wide number of ways out from the debt ceiling and no legal way to implement it. As we have been emphasizing, the National Association of Government Employees lawsuit is sound, and indeed, has been all but endorsed by the President himself. President Biden and Attorney General Garland have no reason to defend the nonsense which is the debt ceiling, besides a vague sense of formality and tradition driven by elite political etiquette that Republicans have long since abandoned. The media needs to quit deferring to the debt ceiling’s political theater and engage more with the essentially uncontroverted legal experts pointing out that it cannot be implemented in a constitutional manner.”

“Provocative NATO Undermines Security of the Nordic Region”

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Biden reportedly just spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about selling that country F-16s and removing his objections to having Sweden join NATO. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Scandinavia this week.

JAN OBERG, tff@transnational.org, @janoberg

Oberg is co-founder of the Swedish-based Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.

He just wrote the piece “Provocative NATO undermines security of the Nordic region,” which states that Finland and Sweden joining NATO would mean abandoning what “served them well for so long.” Meanwhile, “Old-time members, Denmark and Norway, have changed to accept foreign troops and pre-positioning of weapons on their territory. Iceland remains an unarmed member providing the Keflavik Base.

“These policy changes imply that the Baltic Sea is no longer a neutral buffer zone. It’s now a NATO sea. And that means that the adversaries — US/NATO and Russia — are coming much closer in confrontation, animosity, and hate, and that again means much shorter time available to react in a crisis situation, particularly if military equipment and infrastructure is in place and perhaps foreign troops also have been deployed already in peace time. …

“The days when Sweden and Finland can — in principle, at least — work for alternatives are numbered. That is, for the UN Treaty on nuclear abolition and the UN goals of general and complete disarmament, any alternative policy concepts like common security, human security, a strong UN etc. They won’t be able to serve as mediators, and no NATO member can pay anything but lip service to such noble goals. NATO is not a liberal institution that promotes alternatives; it’s a juggernaut that eradicates them.”

Having a Baby = Higher Odds of Medical Debt

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A new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that having a baby in the last 12 months is associated with an increased chance of being in medical debt by nearly 50 percent. Medical debt, which affects one-fifth of American adults, may “disproportionately burden postpartum women,” the authors wrote, “due to pregnancy-related medical costs.”

The study’s authors advocate for states to extend pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage to one year. (Federal law currently requires that states provide Medicaid coverage for 60 days postpartum.) Extending coverage could “substantively reduce the number of uninsured women” and thus reduce medical debt.

AYESHA SUNDARAM; asundaram@challiance.org 
    Sundaram is an internal medicine resident at Cambridge Health Alliance at Harvard Medical School. 

The team looked at a cross section of parents who had babies in the previous 12 months, including uninsured people, people on Medicaid, and people with private insurance. For uninsured people, birth can cost tens of thousands of dollars. “The uninsured are bearing a lot of the burden,” Sundaram said. But “even people with private insurance, which should cover the majority of costs, still end up being affected by medical debt. Private insurance is not sufficient to eliminate the odds of medical debt for this group. Even after adjusting for insurance and socioeconomic status and insurance status, women who have a baby are across the board 50 percent more likely to go into debt.

“We strongly feel that the way to reduce those costs for all is to implement universal coverage to ease the burden of medical debt.

“We [also] found that women with comorbidities were more affected by medical debt. Women with asthma who had had a birth within the last 12 months were more affected. Especially in states that are affected by the recent Dobbs decision [curtailing abortion rights], if they have other medical conditions and financial burden, they run into the risk of not being able to afford medical care for comorbidities to have this child.” Patients with comorbidities are also more likely to have high-risk pregnancies, which cost more.

The 2021 American Recovery Act gave states the ability to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days up to a year. “This study shows that the uninsured are more prone to medical debt, so extending coverage to a full year is important for this population,” Sundaram said. “But even people with Medicaid coverage, at 60 days they start getting costs added on.” To reduce medical debt in this population, the study’s authors recommend both reducing the numbers of uninsured and reducing surprise costs associated with Medicaid. “In Massachusetts, we have legislation in the pipeline to extend coverage.” Sundaram hopes that other states will follow suit. 

Debt Ceiling: Why the Democrats Keep Doing Groundhog Day

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THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson@umb.edu

PAUL JORGENSEN, pdj78@me.com
Ferguson is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Boston, research director at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and senior fellow at Better Markets.

Jorgensen is associate professor and director of environmental studies at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley.

They just co-wrote the piece “No Bargain: Big Money and the Debt Ceiling Deal” with Jie Chen which recalls “President Obama’s famous attempt at a ‘grand bargain’ with Republicans in 2011 — an episode in which then Vice President Joe Biden played a key role. That ratified major Bush-era tax cuts and severely impacted federal spending for years, likely contributing to the voter disaffection with Democrats that became dramatically evident in 2016.”

They also note a recent New York Times editorial which observed that “Democrats could have voted to eliminate the debt ceiling between the fall elections and January, when Republicans took control of the House, or they could have voted to provide the government with sufficient borrowing capacity until the next congressional elections in 2024. Instead, they chose this confrontation. Mr. Biden last fall labeled proposals to eliminate the debt ceiling ‘irresponsible.'”

They continue: “In public the White House conducted talks only with House Speaker McCarthy, leaving out Democrats in both houses. Meantime Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, whose political career has been coterminous with New York City’s ascent as the capital of world finance, made noises about wanting a bipartisan deal. …

“The White House was not caught off guard.” The showdown over the “debt ceiling was pre-programmed from the start. …

“The reason is simple: The dominating fact about American politics is its money-driven character. In our world, both major political parties are first of all bank accounts, which have to be filled for anything to happen. Voters can drive politics, but not easily. …

“The result is what we term the ‘linear model’ of U.S. congressional elections: to a stunning degree outcomes of elections between major party candidates are directly proportional to the amounts of money each raises and spends. This dependence is a feature, not a bug.” [The paper breaks down data with charts illustrating this point.]

They conclude: “Now the President is running for a second term. His fundraisers openly declare that the campaign intends to raise more than a billion dollars. In recent presidential elections, contributions from labor union amount to about 6 or 7 percent of total political spending. Money in the amounts the Biden campaign seeks can come only from one place: from the superrich and very affluent Americans. And in a Congress so dependent on money flows, relatively few representatives in either party are likely to do much more than posture when it comes to raising taxes. For Democrats in particular, the advantages of first actually passing programs, then standing back and reluctantly sustaining votes to take them back are a dream come true for squaring big money politics with folk appeal. That is the real reason Democratic party leaders go along with the debt ceiling ritual.”

MLK Would Have Called Debt Ceiling Deal “Demonic”

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The San Francisco Chronicle just published an op-ed by IPA executive director Norman Solomon headlined “What word would MLK have used to describe Biden’s debt ceiling deal? ‘Demonic.’

“The debt-ceiling deal reached by President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is a picture of priorities that Martin Luther King Jr. deplored,” the piece says. “While reductions in military spending are completely off the table, the knives are out for deep cuts in government programs to feed the hungry, aid children in low-income families, provide housing assistance, assist seniors and much more.”

The op-ed notes that “a year before his death, King described huge spending for war as a ‘demonic, destructive suction tube’ siphoning vast resources away from anti-poverty programs to pay for warfare in Vietnam. Now, 56 years later, the nation’s military expenditures are at record highs while the Pentagon ‘suction tube’ easily blends in with the political scenery.”

Solomon — whose book War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine will be published later this month — pointed out that “in cities, suburbs and rural areas, the cascading effects of chronic neglect are rife, from underfunded public schools and social services to inadequate and exorbitant housing to life-threatening shortfalls of health care from infancy to old age.”

Meanwhile, “the United States spends more money on its military than the next 10 countries combined, and most of those countries are allies. The U.S. has 750 military bases in foreign countries and territories, compared to no more than three dozen for Russia and five for China. Basic facts about these multibillion-dollar outlays don’t often see the light of day, much less receive critical scrutiny.”

Solomon added: “Today’s bloated military spending is immensely powerful, yet the end use of its power is scarcely visible to Americans. During the past decade, U.S. military actions have required fewer and fewer boots on the ground while increasingly relying on the latest technologies to appear above it all, dropping bombs and firing missiles from on high. . . .

“When tens of thousands of ground troops were engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. news media provided some coverage of the impacts on them and their loved ones. American deaths and injuries were deemed newsworthy, in sharp contrast to scant coverage of the deaths and suffering of Afghans and Iraqis due to military actions subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. Now, with so much of U.S. warfare relying on air power and secrecy, media coverage of the Pentagon’s war efforts has faded almost to the vanishing point.”

Solomon’s piece concludes: “Making war invisible goes hand in hand with making gigantic military budgets uncontroversial — and disconnecting the profligate spending for the Pentagon from the depletion of resources for the common good. As long as the grim impacts of massive funding for the military are concealed from the American people, the actual consequences of the ‘demonic, destructive suction tube’ will remain hidden in plain sight.”

Available for interviews:

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com

CDC Acknowledges Police Killings in Mortality Report

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In the newest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention summarize data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). In it, the CDC goes further than the agency ever has before in its discussion of police killings, which are part of a wider category of deaths classified as legal intervention deaths.

JUSTIN FELDMAN; jfeldman@hsph.harvard.edu
    Feldman is a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard FXB Center.

In the NVDRS, CDC authors write in considerably more detail about police killings than they have in the past, pointing to the data on racial and ethnic inequities in fatal police shootings and encouraging further analyses to “increase knowledge about the magnitude and circumstances of these deaths and for developing appropriate prevention strategies and monitoring their effectiveness.”

Feldman told the Institute for Public Accuracy that this acknowledgment is a positive step for CDC. Though the legal intervention category has always been included in NVDRS, “CDC hasn’t talked about it. It may be reported in tables, but never before have they discussed it, let alone proposed improving reporting.” 

The report states that more research needs to be done to “increase the completeness of demographic information on officers involved in these deaths.” But Feldman says CDC’s policy focus on officer demographics falls short. Demographics “don’t matter much,” he said. Instead, he urges CDC to acknowledge that the NVDRS “leaves out many deaths [that happen] in custody” because of the “arbitrary manner of death classifications.” Determinations for non-firearm police killings, for instance, are “arbitrary… If someone dies in one county due to a chokehold or prone restraint by police, that medical examiner may call [the manner of death] undetermined, or a homicide. Five miles away, another might call it accidental.” If a death is classified as accidental, it never reaches NVDRS’s desk. “If the death is classified as accidental non-firearm, it will never even be considered for inclusion.”

Instead of conducting more research on officer demographics, “let’s focus on actually making the data [on police killings] available and collecting it better,” Feldman says. “That’s what I would urge––fixing the manner-of-death issue.”

Hospital Fined for Short Staffing

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In a win for the New York State Nurses Association, an arbitrator has fined Mount Sinai Hospital $127,000 for persistently understaffing its neonatal intensive care unit. Union nurses won stricter staff ratios and enforcement measures after a three-day strike in January. The ruling is the first of its kind

ERIN HOGAN; text (646) 322-6616 to set up interviews
    Hogan is a nurse in the emergency department at Mount Sinai Hospital and a union delegate. 

Hogan told the Institute for Public Accuracy that the ruling was an “amazing win… The nurses won arbitration despite [the hospital’s] flat-out lies, and Sinai was fined $127,000 to be distributed to the nurses who worked short,” ie. on shifts that were understaffed. “Mount Sinai fought hard to try to make it look like we were falsifying our data. But NYSNA nurses, and in this case the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit], fought even harder.”

Hogan hopes that “the fine will encourage other units” besides the NICU to ensure they have adequate staffing and encourage other hospitals and units to fight management. In the emergency department, where Hogan is stationed, “it’s been so busy that it’s difficult to even find the time to collect the data” on staff ratios. In the Emergency Department, “conditions are so awful and it’s so busy that many nurses say that they don’t have the time to collect the data.” 

Blinken at AIPAC

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken will address AIPAC Monday morning.

ABBA SOLOMON, abbasolomon@gmail.com
Solomon is author of the just released book The Miasma of Unity: Jews and Israel.

Solomon’s book, with an introduction by Israeli conductor and musician Jonathan Ofir, reviews historical and contemporary contradictions between Jewish faith and identity, and Jewish nationalism.

Solomon said today: “Secretary of State Blinken, after speaking to more ‘liberal Zionist’ J Street last year, will be reassuring the most effective Zionist lobbying organization, AIPAC, this year.

“It will be interesting to see if Secretary Blinken continues what U.S. anti-Semitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt has done, condemning rock legend Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, by intentionally misunderstanding a performance drawing on the 1979 album ‘The Wall’ — claiming there was anti-Semitic intent.” (See from Chip Gibbons: “Roger Waters’s Critics Are Smearing Him as Antisemitic Because They Hate His Pro-Palestine Activism.”)

Solomon continued: “‘Tensions’ between the Biden administration and Israel on expansionist Israeli projects in the occupied West Bank cannot override the United States prime directive of decades — support for Israel’s right to do anything it sees fit to ensure its ‘security.’ An attack on Iran is often threatened by Israeli cabinet members.

“Blinken will be speaking to AIPAC at a time when increasing numbers of American Jews, especially the younger generation, do not share AIPAC’s reflexive protectiveness of Israeli interests over Palestinian rights.”

Solomon’s past books include The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech “The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.” See his writings at MondoWeiss, including “Why Jewish organizations reflexively defend Israel — even when not asked.”

Risk of Heart Disease in Younger People

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In a recent opinion piece for STAT, a young physician described his decision to begin taking a cholesterol-lowering statin, and he warned both young people and their physicians about the lifetime risk of heart attack in these younger age groups.

SUHAS GONDI; sgondi@bwh.harvard.edu 
    Gondi is a resident physician in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 

“Over half of young adults in the [U.S.],” Gondi wrote, “have cholesterol levels high enough to increase their lifetime risk of a heart attack.” But just 20 percent of young adults with high cholesterol are aware of their cholesterol levels, and Gondi argues that too few young people are getting properly screened for their risk of heart attack.  

Gondi told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Historically, young adults’ [cardiovascular risk has] been neglected for a number of reasons. First, it’s harder to produce high-quality research in this population.” (Young adults are often excluded from studies because cardiac events are less common in people under the age of 40.) 

Gondi added: “That said, in high-risk groups––including South Asians like me––the community is coming around to the idea that we need to check [risk] earlier. To a lesser extent, but still gaining currency, is the idea that we should be using medication to reduce cardiovascular risk in young adults.

“With better epidemiological studies, we’re learning that in a lot of high-risk groups, heart attacks are happening younger. If you follow current guidelines and wait until [age] 35 to check and [age] 40 to take statins, you miss a lot of opportunities to delay or prevent substantial or devastating events. The current guidelines aren’t serving a large group of the patients we serve.” 

In the past, physicians have primarily recommended “lifestyle modifications” to reduce risk of heart attack. “We should absolutely encourage that,” Gondi said. But “a lot of cholesterol isn’t related to diet or exercise; it’s just about genetics.” The recommendation, he said, “also ignores the reality that a healthy diet and access to a gym are not equally accessible to everyone.”

The evidence makes it clear that there’s a benefit to lowering LDL levels when patients are young––“and keeping it low for as long as possible: lower for longer is better. High LDL at younger ages poses a greater risk over a lifetime because when coronary arteries are exposed to high levels of lipids year after year, it can lead to the buildup of plaque and inflammation, predisposing a person to a heart attack. 

Because of the cumulative effects of high LDL, Gondi recommends using a metric similar to the pack-year metric used for cigarette smokers, which considers how long a person has been smoking alongside their intake. “That’s the way we should think about cholesterol as well––in cholesterol years.” 

Gondi also noted that although his opinion piece mainly encouraged the use of standard lipid profiles to ascertain cardiovascular risk, physicians can also do imaging or test for other markers that are not traditionally part of the profile. “There are other ways to measure risk. There are also incredible cholesterol-lowering therapies on the horizon, and it would be amazing to see how those might be helpful for risk reduction in young adults.”

Upcoming Election in Sierra Leone

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Elections in Sierra Leone are set for June 24, 2023. CHERNOH ALPHA BAH, ChernohBah2022@u.northwestern.edu, @AfricanistPress
Bah is founder of Africanist Press which has been publishing exposes of corruption, including the ruling party as well as parts of the opposition. The Africanist Press is part of the Write for Justice initiative, set up to help ensure free, fair and peaceful elections. He was profiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists: “Sierra Leone publisher Chernoh Alpha Bah threatened with death, charges of treason.” “Sierra Leonean authorities should cease their harassment of the Africanist Press and must investigate the death threats against its publisher, Chernoh Alpha Bah, instead of trying to censor him,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator.

Bah said today: “I’m currently living in exile in the United States as a consequence of my work which has exposed corruption in both the ruling party as well as parts of the opposition. For 20 years we at Africanist Press, have made public documents showing corruption and graft across three successive regimes in Sierra Leone. As a result of leading this work, Africanist Press and myself have experienced escalating threats from various sectors of the political groups in Sierra Leone and from the government of Sierra Leone.

“Last year, the Office of National Security submitted a complaint to the Independent Media Commission, the country’s media regulator, claiming ‘most of the Africanist Press publications have been inherently inflammatory, either causing disaffection amongst the public or inciting them against the government.

“I have continued to live in the United States with the fear that I will not be able to return to Sierra Leone, or elsewhere in the West African region, without risking arbitrary detention and criminal charges related to my work.

“Most of what I’ve done is publish internal government documents showing financial corruption.

“The government of Sierra Leone has also hired an Israeli firm to spy on myself and other journalists. I know this because I was leaked those documents too.”

Peace Groups: The State Dept. Should Talk to the Russian Ambassador

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DAVID SWANSON, david@worldbeyondwar.org, @WorldBeyondWar    Swanson is executive director of World Beyond War, which just launched a campaign asking the State Department to talk to the Russian ambassador in Washington, D.C.

The group states: “The U.S. State Department is not talking with the Russian Ambassador to the United States … about resolving the Ukraine war, or about much of anything else.

Politico calls the Russian Ambassador to the United States ‘Lonely Anatoly‘ because his job is to talk with the U.S. government, but the U.S. government won’t talk with him.“This is dangerous. Failure to communicate only increases distrust and enmity, heightening the risk of nuclear war.The group expands: “Four blocks from the White House sits the Russian Ambassador’s house, the former Soviet Embassy where then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy met with Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to de-escalate the Cuban Missile Crisis by talking. Today, another Russian Ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, is there, but the U.S. State Department doesn’t speak with him. …“Speak about allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to protect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.“Speak about reactivating and extending the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty.“Speak about steps that can begin to build trust.“Speak, ideally, about a compromise that might end the killing before it ends all life on Earth.”

Influential House Dem “Open to” Cluster Munitions for Ukraine 

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A statement by the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee — signaling that he is “open to” the U.S. shipping cluster munitions to Ukraine — is now sparking alarm nationwide. Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations last month, Adam Smith (D-Wash.) spoke favorably about supplying what is widely regarded as one of the most inhumane types of weapons in existence.

When Russia invaded Ukraine while using cluster munitions, the New York Times reported that “internationally banned cluster munitions” are “a variety of weapons — rockets, bombs, missiles and artillery projectiles — that disperse lethal bomblets in midair over a wide area, hitting military targets and civilians alike.” And the newspaper noted that cluster bombs “kill so indiscriminately they are banned under international law.”

Human Rights Watch has declared: “All countries should condemn the use of these weapons under any circumstances.” But Rep. Smith said that providing cluster munitions to Ukrainian armed forces is “something I’m open to.”

In an opinion piece published by The Hill on Wednesday, “The U.S. should not provide cluster munitions to Ukraine,” Institute for Public Accuracy executive director Norman Solomon wrote: “Part of Smith’s rationale was that the Russian military has already used cluster munitions in Ukraine, so the U.S. might as well enable Ukrainian forces to do the same. That approach boils down to a tacit assumption that Washington should not lag behind Moscow in a race to the bottom.”

 NORMAN SOLOMON; norman@accuracy.org

    Solomon wrote: “An implicit corollary is that America should get a pass on wartime actions that it has justifiably condemned other nations for doing. Such approaches fit into patterns of evasion that hide the actual human toll of U.S. military choices.” Solomon’s book War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine will be published next week.

    In yesterday’s piece for The Hill, Solomon asserted that “as a leading Democrat on military matters, Rep. Smith is putting forward an attitude toward cluster munitions that could have notably pernicious effects. But he’s hardly alone. The moral corrosion — reflected in the current Capitol Hill discourse on cluster munitions — is distinctly bipartisan. In the early spring, four powerful Republican voices on military affairs and foreign policy weighed in on the side of aiding Ukraine to disregard the cluster-munitions ban treaty that 123 countries have ratified or signed. (Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine are not among them.)”

     This morning, the activist organization RootsAction.org launched a national campaign that it expects will generate well over 1,000 constituent emails to members of the House and Senate in the next few hours. The group says that “we can and must raise our voices,” pointing out: “Cluster bombs kill indiscriminately, and disproportionately kill children who are attracted to and pick up the bomblets.”

     The Congressional Research Service has issued a report documenting that “U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 million to 2 million submunitions during the first three weeks of combat in Iraq in 2003.”

 

Widespread Loss of Medicaid Coverage

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For more than a year, experts have warned that millions might be kicked off of Medicaid after the end of the continuous enrollment provision of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Their predictions came true; since April, upwards of 600,000 people in the United States have had their coverage terminated. Early data show that the vast majority of enrollees have lost their insurance not because they are ineligible for it but because of “paperwork issues,” ie. procedural disenrollments.

ALLEXA GARDNER: akg72@georgetown.edu 
    Gardner is a senior research associate at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families (CCF). 

Gardner told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Across the board, we are seeing a significant share of procedural disenrollments. The best rate is in Pennsylvania, where 43 percent [of disenrollments have been procedural, rather than due to enrollees being deemed ineligible for coverage]. That’s still incredibly high. The highest rates, meanwhile, are in Indiana and West Virginia, where 89 percent have been procedural. That means enrollees are encountering red tape or have had their coverage terminated without getting an eligibility determination––which can occur for any number of reasons,” including if a renewal form was lost in the mail, if someone couldn’t get through to a call center with their questions, or had difficulty getting the proper documents together. 

In Florida, where 82 percent of disenrollments have been procedural, 205,000 people have been affected. 

“We were expecting a significant share of people to lose coverage for procedural reasons, given that approximately 15 million people were estimated to lose coverage [overall]. But especially in Arkansas and Florida, the numbers are significantly higher than we expected.” Gardner emphasized the high number of children that have been procedurally disenrolled, “even though they are likely to remain eligible,” and urged a messaging shift that communicates to parents that
“even if they are no longer eligible, they should still return their forms because their child is likely still eligible. Even in non-expansion states, where the majority of Medicaid enrollees are pregnant, postpartum, or very low-income people, children are still eligible.” 

Experts from CCF have urged states experiencing high rates of procedural disenrollments to pause the unwinding, giving them more time to “do additional outreach to emphasize the changes in Medicaid coverage and the need to return renewal forms, and to make sure that all parts of the process are working correctly,” to minimize the number of disenrollments. 

Gardner also emphasized the importance of people in the field gathering stories of enrollees who are facing barriers to completing their renewal forms. “If people hear stories that enrollees are not getting their forms in the mail, or that call center waits are hours-long, then those themes can help us identify where pain points are in the state, and help the state make necessary changes.”

“Austrian Censorship of Peace Conference Is an Outrage”

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KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv@gmail.com, @voiceinwild    Kelly is president of the board of World BEYOND War. She has signed the just-released statement: “Austrian Censorship of Peace Conference Is an Outrage” which states: “Forty-eight hours before a global peace conference in Vienna, Austria, was to begin, the venue host abruptly cancelled. Peace, it seems, cannot be discussed, especially peace in Ukraine.

“This news is a disturbing step in a growing trend.

“Owners of the venue which was to host the Summit for Peace in Ukraine, announced on Wednesday, 7 June, 2023, their decision to cancel the agreement holding the summit on their premises. Fortunately, a new location was secured in Vienna (and anyone on Earth can sign up to take part online), but not before a smear campaign against the summit had been launched. …

“This is not an isolated incident. Western liberal ideals have long asserted that the best answer to mistaken speech was wiser speech and more of it. We now have a rapidly growing liberal consensus in favor, instead, of censoring media outlets, canceling speaking events, and forbidding people with unwanted points of view from even gathering together. Powers are being granted to governments, social media platforms, and other tech corporations that believers in democratic self-governance spent centuries claiming nobody should have. …

“This is where we have arrived. Proposing to negotiate peace — without even suggesting what those negotiations should arrive at — is so unacceptable to proponents of war, that it cannot be discussed — not in any large gathering. And yet, despite the wars being waged in the name of ‘democracy’ it is not clear how such censorship is driven by democracy or in align with democratic values. Nor is it clear how many steps, if any, remain between the varieties of censorship we have now and hardcopy book burnings of the past.”

NATO Playing with Fire

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NATO air command tweets that German Luftwaffe “kicks off the largest multinational air force deployment in NATO history.” See New York Times piece.
BENJAMIN ABELOW, benjamin.abelow@gmail.com
Abelow is author of the book How the West Brought War to Ukraine: Understanding How U.S. and NATO Policies Led to Crisis, War, and the Risk of Nuclear Catastrophe.

   Abelow recently said: “To say that the U.S. and NATO provoked the war could mean two different things. Do I mean that they wanted a war, and that they knew their actions would start one? That is one possible meaning of ‘provoked.’ But ‘provoked’ can also mean that their actions caused the war unintentionally. In fact, one can provoke a war while trying to avoid war. Although it is possible that some in the U.S. foreign policy elite wanted this war, I believe that most did not. I think that most were honestly trying to stabilize the peace. In English we have an idiom, ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ I think this expression applies to the role of the United States and NATO in creating this war. …

“One telling example occurred in 2021, the year before Russia invaded Ukraine. In that year, NATO carried out a live-fire training exercise in Estonia, a NATO country on Russia’s northwestern border. NATO fired 24 missiles. The launch sites were just 70 miles from Russia, and the missiles had a range of 185 miles. The purpose of this exercise was to practice destroying air defense targets inside Russia. The missiles did not enter Russian airspace, and NATO was not planning to attack Russia. It was trying to figure out how to react if Russia invaded one of the Baltic nations — Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. Destroying air defense targets was part of an overall deterrent or protective strategy. But this exercise could have been perceived by Russian leaders as preparation for an offensive attack. In fact, the same exercises could be used to train for that purpose.  “Now let’s picture the converse of this situation. Imagine that the United States and Canada underwent a rift in their relations, and that Russia and Canada developed close political and military ties. Now imagine that, using a training site in Canada, Russia launched missiles, 70 miles from the U.S. border, to practice destroying air defense sites inside the United States. How would U.S. politicians and the foreign policy elite, military planners, and ordinary citizens in the United States react? Would they have accepted Russian claims that their actions were only defensive? No.”

A Tale of Two Espionage Act Defendants: Trump and a Drone Whistleblower 

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Former President Trump is facing 31 counts under the Espionage Act, the same federal statute that was the basis for the prosecution of U.S. Air Force veteran Daniel Hale, who is now serving a 45-month prison sentence as a drone whistleblower.

An article published by The Hill — “Two Very Different Espionage Act Cases: Trump and the Drone Whistleblower” — features comments from Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency who became a whistleblower.

    Written by Institute for Public Accuracy executive director Norman Solomon, the article says: “For Trump, it will be irrelevant that the 106-year-old Espionage Act does not allow defendants to testify about why they handled classified documents the way they did. But, if not for that restriction, Hale might never have gone to prison in the first place.”

    Drake commented: “Donald Trump did not faithfully defend or execute the laws of the land — instead he held them, and ‘We the People’ of the U.S., in utter contempt. Daniel Hale held faith to the highest ideals of our country and human rights, as he witnessed so many innocent civilians wiped out in the drone killing fields and shared it via the press in the public interest. The deep irony is that the Espionage Act, in its contemporary use, can’t tell Trump and Hale apart.”

 THOMAS DRAKE, tadrake@earthlink.net

While at the NSA, Drake disclosed the original mass surveillance regime put in place after 9/11, multibillion-dollar fraud and waste as well as 9/11 intelligence failures. He was indicted by the government as the signature Espionage Act case by the Obama administration in 2010 after a four-year criminal investigation and went free after a plea deal. Prior to his stints at the NSA and as a consultant/contractor in management and information technology, he served in the Air Force, CIA and Navy as an intelligence specialist.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive@gmail.com

 Solomon’s new book War Made Invisible chronicles the federal prosecution of Hale and other whistleblowers disclosing top-secret information. Solomon covered the 2015 trial and sentencing of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for The Nation magazine, and has also written about prosecutions related to disclosures of classified information for HuffPost and Columbia Journalism Review.

Biden Rebuilds Ties with Saudi Arabia, Sanders Silent on Stopping Yemen War

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As the Biden administration rebuilds ties with Saudi Arabia, Vermonters rallied outside a recent “town hall” event with Bernie Sanders, calling on him to meet with them on the U.S./Saudi role in the devastating Yemen war, and to follow through on his pledge on the Senate floor from December. Video shows Isaac Evans-Frantz confronting Bernie, surrounded by Vermonters carrying signs.

SACC EVANS-FRANTZ, isaac@actioncorps.org, @theactioncorps
Evans-Frantz is with Action Corps, an organization with people in 30 states who campaign for U.S. policies to save lives around the world.

He said today: “When Bernie withdrew his Yemen War Powers Resolution December 13 on the Senate floor, he promised he’d be back for a vote if needed. ‘I look forward to working with the administration who is opposed to this resolution,’ Sanders said, ‘And see if we can come up with something that is strong and effective. If we do not, I will be back.’

“Bernie’s apparent silence — as the historic leader on the Yemen War Powers Resolution in the Senate — is providing cover for other members of Congress to fail to act.

“Because U.S. military participation in the Saudi war in Yemen has not ended, because Bernie has not yet kept his promise to act, because Bernie has not yet met with us, and because there was no option for asking questions or making comments during Bernie’s ‘town hall,’ Vermonters who care about Yemen gathered outside Bernie’s ‘town hall’ in Stowe with signs demanding that Bernie meet with us and that he stay strong and reintroduce the Yemen War Powers Resolution in the Senate. Vermonters will have his back when he does this – but he needs to start by meeting with the people who he represents.”

See recent teach-in on Yemen.

“Daniel Ellsberg Has Passed Away. He Left Us a Message”

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Pentagon Papers whistleblower and longtime peace activist Daniel Ellsberg died on Friday at the age of 92.

In a pair of articles published this afternoon — “Daniel Ellsberg Wanted Americans to See the Truth About War” and “Daniel Ellsberg Has Passed Away. He Left Us a Message.” — author and activist Norman Solomon reflects on the dimensions of Ellsberg’s commitments and historic impacts.

Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, co-wrote a piece with Ellsberg for The Nation magazine in 2021 about the especially grave dangers of nuclear war posed by ICBMs on hair-trigger alert, “To Avoid Armageddon, Don’t Modernize Missiles — Eliminate Them.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive@gmail.com

     Solomon’s new book War Made Invisible includes an interview with Ellsberg that was excerpted and published this afternoon by The Intercept.

“Asians Want to Do Business; the U.S. Government is ‘War, War, War'”

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Beijing. 

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.
His book The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia (see NPR report on that book) tracks the rise of the “war lobby” that attempted to convince the U.S. public that the Chinese people wanted Chiang Kai-shek and that China could be Christianized during the FDR administration. “Of course, Mao Zedong would resoundingly defeat the forces of Chiang Kai-shek, but the war lobby would raise millions propagandizing the U.S. public and U.S. government helped fund the whole thing.“Today, Asians want to do business; the U.S. government is ‘war, war, war.’ My daughter lives in Taipei and will be visiting. From her point of view, unification will mean the color of her passport would change. East Asians don’t want a Ukraine war here.

“Certainly, using a number of means, the U.S. government can coerce different governments to build more bases — the Philippines, Japan and so on. But there’s no public desire for this.

“The U.S. government strategy, articulated by Zbigniew Brzezinski and now pushed by Victoria Nuland, Antony Blinken and Jake Sulivan, is to break up Halford Mackinder’s big island. They will use whatever means they can to prevent strong bonds throughout Asia.”

Seymour Hersh recently wrote: “Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has resigned, and her last day in office is June 30. Her departure has triggered near panic inside the State Department about the person many there fear will be chosen to replace her: Victoria Nuland. Nuland’s hawkishness on Russia and antipathy for Vladimir Putin fits perfectly with the views of President Biden. Nuland is now the undersecretary for political affairs and has been described as ‘running amok,’ in the words of a person with direct knowledge of the situation, among the various bureaus of the State Department while Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on the road.”

See from January, 2021: “Biden Nominating Victoria ‘F*ck the EU’ Nuland.”

Model for Local Governments to Cancel Medical Debt

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In early spring, the mayor of Washington, D.C. announced a budget provision for a $900,000 grant to be awarded to a third-party organization to buy and cancel medical debt for thousands of residents. Because one penny can be spent for every $1 of debt, the city could use that money to cancel $90 million in medical debt. The budget will likely be finalized soon. 

DANIEL LEMPERT; daniel.lempert@RIPmedicaldebt.org 
    Lempert is the vice president of communications at RIP Medical Debt (RIP), a charity that aims to eliminate personal medical debt. RIP works to produce a high volume of debt relief and to help healthcare providers strengthen communities. 

RIP Medical Debt has signed contracts with municipalities—including Cook County, Illinois; Toledo, Ohio; and New Orleans—to help buy and cancel medical debt. The organization may be awarded the potential D.C. grant, though the deal hasn’t been finalized. 

Lempert told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “We’re the only organization that has gotten federal approval from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to purchase medical debt or have it donated directly from providers, like hospitals and physician groups. RIP acquires qualifying debt in the region of interest and can relieve it.” Medical debt qualifies for RIP’s criteria if it belongs to an individual who is at four times or below the federal poverty level or if the debt makes up 5 percent or more of a person’s annual income. 

“Typically, after a hospital or healthcare provider has spent six to 12 months trying to collect on a debt, they will consider it ‘bad debt.’ Those are the files that we look at,” said Lempert. “Often, more than 50 percent of a [provider’s] ‘bad debt’ file qualifies for RIP.” Just as for-profit debt collectors do, RIP pays a penny or less on the dollar, since debt gets less expensive as it gets older. RIP sources debt from providers as well as from the secondary debt market. 

Lempert emphasized that RIP provides an “end-of-the-cycle intervention.” Debt relief, or what RIP also refers to as debt abolition, is not the “be-all, end-all solution.” 

Whitewashing the Azov Battalion: “Our Neo-Nazis”

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LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin@gmail.com
Golinkin is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, a Memoir of Soviet Ukraine, which he left as a child refugee.

He just wrote the piece “The Western Media Is Whitewashing the Azov Battalion” for The Nation, which states: “Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine has already resulted in millions of losers — chief among them the civilians who’ve been tortured, murdered, forced to become refugees, or forced to spend their days worrying about loved ones fighting Russia.

“But there are also winners: the neofascists whom Putin’s war has turned into heroes.

“For seven years, Western institutions have warned about Ukraine’s Azov Movement, which began as a neo-Nazi paramilitary group in 2014 and became notorious for its worldwide recruitment of extremists.

“Then came Russia’s invasion. Within months, Azov fighters were being feted in Congress and at Stanford University. MSNBC swooned over a Ukrainian soldier whose Twitter account overflowed with neo-Nazi images. Facebook made the stunning decision to allow posts praising the Azov Battalion, even though the company admitted that it was a hate group.

“This overnight normalization of white supremacy was possible because Western institutions, driven by a zeal to ignore anything negative about our Ukrainian allies, decided that a neo-Nazi military formation in a war-torn nation had suddenly and miraculously stopped being neo-Nazi.”

The Nation tweets: “The Anti-Defamation League has tirelessly gone after corporations for selling Nazi-affiliated merch. They told the New York Times it’s impossible to ‘make an inference about the wearer or the Ukrainian Army’ based on the patch of a Totenkopf.”

Golinkin concludes: “Putin isn’t the only one obsessed with Azov. We can’t get enough of them. They’re our neo-Nazis.”

Golinkin’s writing on the Ukraine crisis, Russia, the far right, and immigrant and refugee identity has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and the Boston Globe among others.

Huge Hospital Firm Reaping Profits From Dubious Transfers to Hospice

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A new report from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Masking Mortality, finds that the largest hospital corporation in the country, HCA Healthcare, may be inappropriately transferring patients to hospice care to boost profits and executive compensation. 

Available for interviews: 

AMANDA CHISOLM; amanda.chisolm@617mediagroup.com, (617) 947-8854
    Chisolm is account executive at 617MediaGroup and the SEIU press contact. 

Analysis of Medicare claims data found that HCA hospitals have higher average rates of patient transfers to hospice than the national average. A press release from SEIU stated that HCA’s executive compensation is also “tied to the company’s in-hospital mortality rate. Executives earn bonuses if they reduce the rate of patients who die in HCA hospitals, creating a possible incentive to encourage the practice of quickly shifting seriously ill patients––and patients who are likely to die imminently––to hospice.” 

Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU, added: “In the last two years alone, HCA raked in $12.6 billion in profits and paid out $16 billion to shareholders… [T]hat HCA might also be boosting profits and executive compensation with questionable hospice practices is beyond troubling.” 

The release of the report coincides with SEIU members’ call on regulators to investigate the corporation’s practices regarding patient discharges to hospice. 

Research on Coping with Long Covid

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A new paper by the Patient-Led Research Collaborative, published in Nature Mental Health, looks in depth at a variety of factors associated with psychiatric outcomes in patients with Long Covid. 

YOCHAI RE’EM; yreemmd@reempsych.com 
    Re’em is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine and assistant attending psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. He has firsthand experience with Long Covid since March 2020, when he contracted Covid. 

Re’em, who is a co-author on the paper, told the Institute for Public Accuracy that surveys put out by the Patient-Led Research Collaborative were some of the first studies to look at the symptom burden of Long Covid and to “characterize the disease at the patient level.” The analysis in Nature Mental Health looks at factors associated with suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety in patients with Long Covid prior to the Omicron wave in Winter 2021. 

Key findings include: 

  • Not everyone with Long Covid experienced a mental health outcome. 
  • 42.8 percent of people with Long Covid experienced depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. 
  • In patients with Long Covid who experience psychiatric outcomes, men are significantly more likely to be suicidal than women; nonbinary and gender nonconforming respondents were more likely to be anxious and suicidal than men and women; people with depression, suicidality, and anxiety were significantly more likely to be younger (in the 18-29 year age range); and lower income brackets were associated with higher levels of psychiatric outcomes. 

Re’em said: “It’s not surprising to me, but it’s important to note how much suicidality there is in this population. That’s something that’s been largely underappreciated.” Re’em was also disheartened by the fact that more than 50 percent of respondents reported having at least one negative experience with a medical provider in the first several months of illness, in which the provider was “harmful,” “dismissive,” “skeptical,” or “apathetic.” Those who experienced a negative interaction with a provider, or who reported that at least one of their doctors did not believe their illness, were significantly more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal. 

Re’em also emphasized that the survey findings show that Long Covid is not a psychosomatic illness and that patients are not struggling with Long Covid because of poor coping skills. Indeed, the majority of Long Covid patients do not experience psychiatric problems; Re’em said that removes the emphasis on the idea that Long Covid is a psychiatric problem. “In general, we know that people are generally resilient during periods of trauma. We knew that before and this data [only] expands upon that. This data shows that people with Long Covid have generally-adaptive coping mechanisms: maladaptive strategies aren’t causing [illness].”

Private Equity Firms Pocketing Money for Autism Services

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In a report for the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), coauthors Eileen Appelbaum and Rosemary Batt show how private equity (PE) firms have dominated the provision of autism services in recent years. They found that between 2017 and 2022, PE completed 85 percent of all buyouts of autism service providers––the highest rate of buyouts in any industry. 

KELSEY MOORE; moore@cepr.net
    Moore is a communications associate for CEPR. 

A press release from CEPR notes that “post-buyout, PE-owned autism service chains have lower levels of staffing, training, and supervision, all of which undermine both job quality and care quality.” 

Moore wrote: “Just days ago, Blackstone announced the bankruptcy of its national autism services chain, the Center for Autism and Related Disorders.” Appelbaum and Batt’s report explains how the bankruptcy occurred. 

“Autism services,” she added, “became a ‘hot market’ for private equity buyouts in recent years, when health insurance for autism became widespread due to a decade-long fight by parents and advocates for mandated coverage. Spotting an opportunity for profit, PE has been driving rapid consolidation of small providers into large national chains––and in most cases, loading providers with substantial debt that they previously did not have.”

What is “Wellness Capitalism”?

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In a primer for Data & Society, Wellness Capitalism: Employee Health, the Benefits Maze, and Worker Control, sociologist Tamara Nopper and research analyst Eve Zelickson describe the history of employee health and wellness programs in the U.S.––and how those programs have morphed into a form of “‘wellness capitalism,’ a model of public health involving the state, employers, and a wellness industry in which worker behaviors are monitored to improve society’s health.”

EVE ZELICKSON; eve@datasociety.net
    Zelickson is a research analyst with the Labor Futures team at Data & Society. She studies issues at the intersection of technology, labor, health, and privacy. 

Nopper and Zelickson argue that wellness capitalism hinges on a “powerful win-win narrative,” which suggests that employers and employees benefit from employee assistance programs (EAPs) and employee wellness programs (EWPs): “workers are told they will be healthier, and employers are told they will save money.” The programs are primarily supplied through third-party providers which are subject to fewer health privacy regulations than traditional healthcare providers. 

Zelickson told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “There is potent rhetoric about [employer] investments in these programs. But there’s no consensus that these programs actually improve health and wellness. The marketing is very tech-forward; they often use nascent, overhyped technology like AI and predictive algorithms.” 

Zelickson hopes that the primer will be particularly helpful to workers who are already organized, and that it can help them to “think more deeply about the types of benefits they want. In organized workplaces, there is a lot of conversation around healthcare and insurance, but benefits often get overlooked. Those workplaces should pay attention to the [wellness] benefits being offered and to how their data is being collected.” Given that employees can be subject to penalties for non-participation in EAP and EWPs, experts are also concerned that wellness benefits can lead to “lifestyle discrimination” by employers. (The American Civil Liberties Union, Nopper and Zelickson write, states that “the most common victims of this type of discrimination are smokers and fat people.”)

Zelickson added: “This is a privatized, for-profit model of healthcare. Do we want to be reliant on our bosses and our employment for these services? What should the role of the employer be in health and healthcare?”

New Findings on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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A new meta-analysis of the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) compared to other therapies found that CBT did not outperform other psychotherapies in the treatment of depression. 

MARK RUFFALO; mlruffalo@gmail.com
    Ruffalo is an instructor of psychiatry at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine and an adjunct instructor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine.

JONATHAN SHEDLER; jonathan@shedler.com 
    Shedler is a psychologist. He is best known for his article The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, which established psychoanalytic therapy as an evidence-based treatment.

Ruffalo told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “This is not the first meta-analysis of the effects of CBT for depression [versus] other therapies, but it is the largest ever of a specific type of psychotherapy for a mental disorder––409 studies and over 50,000 patients, which is an astronomical amount. Although CBT’s effectiveness for depression was confirmed, CBT did not outperform other psychotherapies, despite the fact that CBT leaders have touted it as the ‘gold standard’ therapy for depression” for decades. “The public has come to believe CBT is better than anything else, including psychodynamic therapy, which is simply not true. Other forms of psychotherapy, including more traditional forms of talk therapy, are also evidence-based treatments, despite claims of some CBT proponents.” 

CBT proponents have long held authority in the mental health space in part due to the influence of managed care on the practice of psychotherapy, Ruffalo noted. “Health insurers want to cover only the briefest and cheapest treatments,” including CBT. “When the early CBT research showed it to be effective for depression, insurers began insisting on it versus other therapies.” This study only looks at treatment durations of under 16 sessions. But Shedler noted that “we know from previous research [treatments of 16 sessions] are over before meaningful psychological change can start to happen.”

Today, there is still “little research funding to study psychodynamic psychotherapy; most researchers in academic psychology lack exposure to psychodynamic ideas and have an anti-psychodynamic bias,” Ruffalo added. This creates barriers to researching the effectiveness of psychodynamic therapies. 

Shedler said that the paper’s findings line up with his previous work: “Only about 20 percent of patients respond to the [CBT] treatments compared to those in control groups. At 10-12 months out [from treatment], that figure drops to about 6 percent.”

Extreme Marine Heatwave

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Sea surface temperatures for June are the highest seen in nearly two centuries, and waters around the U.K. and Ireland have been classified as experiencing a category 4 marine heatwave. Sea temperatures in the region are up to 4℃ above normal for this time of year. On June 17, average surface temperatures peaked at 23℃ (73.4℉). 

COLIN MCCARTHY; stormwatchcolin@gmail.com, @US_Stormwatch 
    McCarthy is the founder of US_Stormwatch, where he researches and analyzes weather patterns and events. He launched the account in 2017, at age 13. 

McCarthy told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The atmosphere has been incredibly warm around the U.K. over the last month. This June will be the hottest in recorded history in the U.K. since records began in 1884. 

“Climate change is making record hot events more intense as well as more frequent. The intensifying El Niño in the Pacific––as well as less Saharan dust over the North Atlantic, which generally helps shield more sunlight from heating ocean surface––are also likely playing a contributing role” in the heatwave.

“Marine heatwaves (MHWs) are different than those [that occur] on land,” McCarthy said. “While heatwaves on land typically last less than a week, marine heatwaves can last weeks, and even months.” They can also lead to “devastating impacts” on marine habitats: coral bleaching, marine ecosystem disruption, and mass animal die-offs. MHWs also threaten biodiversity and make extreme weather more likely, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

It will take time, McCarthy said, for researchers to analyze the effects of this particular marine heatwave. Already, however, “algae blooms have been reported in the North Sea.” Harmful algal blooms can reduce the ability of aquatic life to find food, precipitate marine wildlife migrations, and potentially poison wildlife

Upholding the Myths of Colorblindness and the “Model Minority” 

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The Supreme Court ruled against Harvard’s and the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action programs regarding admissions today, in a 6-2 and 6-3 vote respectively, deeming race-based considerations unconstitutional.

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kevin@kevinkumashiro.com
Kumashiro is the co-founder of the nationwide network, Education Deans for Justice and Equity, and the award-winning author of ten books on education.

Kumashiro told the Institute of Public Accuracy: “Today’s SCOTUS decision is not surprising, but nonetheless a travesty – especially when viewed alongside the escalating attacks on curriculum and books, DEI initiatives, funding equity, and democratic processes.  This decision perpetuates the myth of colorblindness that race no longer matters and that democracy is somehow advanced when we refuse to attend to long-standing and pervasive issues of racial injustices. Furthermore, the decision furthers a narrowed vision for higher education, focusing on individual merit rather than the common good.

“The current cases diverged from the previous three SCOTUS decisions by amplifying the ‘model minority’ stereotype of Asian Americans, hindering cross-racial coalition building by presenting Asian Americans as evidence that racism no longer exists and that race-conscious policies hurts them.

“The effects nationwide on college and university enrollments are sure to be profound, as we saw following bans on affirmative action in California post-1996 and Michigan post-2006 when enrollments of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students plummeted.

“We cannot prepare students of all backgrounds to thrive in a diverse world if their educational institutions are not similarly diverse.  Affirmative action in admissions was never the panacea, and universities were already exploring and implementing a range of other initiatives to serve an increasingly diverse younger generation, but retreating from race will make it even harder for universities to advance democracy and justice.”

Inside the Drug Shortages

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American patients are currently being affected by shortages of various medicines, including Adderall, pediatric antibiotics and painkillers, as well as critical chemotherapy drugs. 

DANYA QATO; dqato@rx.umaryland.edu
    Qato is the director of the pharmaceutical health services research graduate program and an associate professor of practice, sciences, and health outcomes research at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. 

Shortages of critical medications, as well as of sterile products used in hospitals (such as saline bags), are due to a confluence of factors, Qato said. Oftentimes, “the profit margin [of these products] is so minimal” for manufacturers that they have “consolidated,” and “that results in a problem if one manufacturer ends up having a quality problem.” Though much attention has already been paid to the country’s reliance on manufacturers overseas, “this is not just an overseas manufacturing issue. We still have problems with good-quality manufacturing at plants here.”

Earlier this month, U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation to identify the country’s pharmaceutical supply chain weaknesses. The Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Risk Assessment Act “gets at some of the opaqueness of supply chain issues,” Qato said, and could mitigate “inability to actually track the pharmaceutical supply chain from A to Z. There’s zero transparency when it comes to the longitudinal process of a drug going from manufacturer to the market, which makes it difficult to predict and mitigate harm from shortages. Current regulations aren’t strong enough to compel manufacturers to be transparent about the causes of active pharmaceutical ingredient shortages or to give potential timelines to resolve them.”

Less than 15 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients are produced in the United States. As such, “this legislation refocuses manufacturing to national sites. But the framing is problematic,” Qato added: it posits the U.S.’s reliance on international partners primarily as a national security risk. (Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), the bill’s co-author, stated that “our over-reliance on foreign nations for critical drugs threatens our military readiness.”)

That being said, “the issue remains,” Qato said. “We are reliant on international partners and manufacturing sites, which we de facto have little oversight over compared to national manufacturing sites.” 

But Qato is also an advocate for several interventions that can be introduced at stages earlier in the manufacturing and distribution process—before shortages occur. “Drug shortages are one part of the conversation, but there are other aspects to it.” Access to medicines is also dictated by the role that the FDA plays in setting targets for production, the discretion that individual pharmacies have around decisions to stock particular medicines, and challenges pharmacies and pharmacists face in communicating with one another about drug supply. Pharmacies lack a consolidated electronic system to communicate about prescriptions, for instance. To transfer prescriptions or help a patient find a drug that they don’t have in stock, pharmacists work on a “1-to-1 basis. That’s taxing in terms of time. There are lots of barriers to answering what might seem like a simple question. Pharmacists are overwhelmed by these responsibilities.” 

Mainstream media may frame the issue as pharmacist burnout, while corporations frame it as a pharmacist shortage. “That’s the greatest lie ever told,” Qato said. “It’s not about burnout, because burnout assumes the workload was okay to begin with. We’re talking about inordinate responsibilities for one pharmacist.” In recent years, pharmacists work with less overlap in shift schedules. “Corporations are not allowing their pharmacists and pharmaceutical technicians to do their work in a safe way. There has been an abdication of responsibility by the corporations to adequately staff and support pharmacists.”

“Access isn’t just about [drug] cost or supply,” Qato said. “It’s also structural.” 

Protests in France

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JEAN BRICMONT, [in France] jean.bricmont@uclouvain.be, @JeanBricmontA noted political analyst, Bricmont said today: “At first, there was a police murder of a 17-year-old kid, who was recklessly driving an expensive car. Luckily, there are videos of the incident that prove that the policeman did not act in legitimate self-defense. After that, there has been an explosion of violence, against buildings set on fire, private and public, against policemen, as well as looting. [While in Paris] I could hear mortar fire during the night.

“The problem is that French society is deeply divided. Starting in the 1970’s there was mass immigration that was of course favored by the employers, but also, in the name of diversity and multiculturalism, by the post-’68 intellectual left. The problem is that some of the descendants of these immigrants feel deeply alienated from French society, which leads to a dialectic of violence between them and the police as well as a large part of French society.

“The only beneficiary of the present turmoil is likely to be the National Gathering (ex-National Front).”

Sierra Leone Election Called “Rigged” 

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CNN is reporting: “Sierra Leone election observers flag ‘statistical inconsistencies.'” AP is reporting: “Sierra Leone’s main opposition calls for presidential election re-run after incumbent named winner.”
CHERNOH ALPHA BAH, ChernohBah2022@u.northwestern.edu, @AfricanistPress
Bah is founder of Africanist Press and just wrote the piece “Dangers of Endorsing or Participating in an Illegitimate Regime,” which charges: “The nexus between financial corruption and political corruption is always anchored in rigged elections. Politicians who steal public funds can’t organize credible elections. They have to steal public votes to protect their stolen wealth.” …

Bah is urging “democratic organizations, and friends of Sierra Leone, to loudly inform the politicians in Sierra Leone that an election cannot be called a democratic election if it lacks transparency. The absence of transparency makes it an authoritarian election. And there should be consequences for those willingly obstructing the holding of democratic elections.”

Bah is living in exile in the U.S. as a result of his exposing corruption in both the ruling party as well as parts of the opposition.

He has been profiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists: “Sierra Leone publisher Chernoh Alpha Bah threatened with death, charges of treason.” “Sierra Leonean authorities should cease their harassment of the Africanist Press and must investigate the death threats against its publisher, Chernoh Alpha Bah, instead of trying to censor him,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator.

Biden Nominates Elliott Abrams

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DAVE DeCAMP, davedecamp@protonmail.com, @DecampDave
DeCamp is news editor for antiwar.com. He just wrote the piece “Biden Nominates Elliott Abrams to Public Diplomacy Commission,” which states: “President Biden announced Monday that he will nominate Elliott Abrams to the bipartisan United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, CNN has reported.

“Abrams is a neoconservative hawk who led the Trump administration’s failed Venezuela regime change effort, which involved crushing economic sanctions that are still in effect today, besides Biden giving Chevron a limited license to pump oil in the country.“Toward the end of Trump’s presidency, Abrams was also assigned as the U.S.’s top Iran envoy, where he oversaw a sanctions policy designed to prevent President Biden from re-entering the Iran nuclear deal.“Abrams is notorious for his role in covering up atrocities committed by U.S.-backed forces in Latin America during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, most notably the El Mozate massacre in El Salvador.“Over 800 civilians were killed by U.S.-trained forces in El Mozate, and at the time, Abrams praised the death squad and disputed the death toll. In 1991, Abrams pled guilty for lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra Affair but was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.“Abrams also served in the George W. Bush administration as the deputy national security advisor from 2005 – 2009. He currently works for the Council on Foreign Relations as senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies.”

“Excess Mortality” During the Covid-19 Pandemic

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A new study examines monthly excess deaths across counties in the U.S. from March 2020 to February 2022. “Excess mortality” is defined as the difference between expected and observed mortality. This is the first study to delve beyond federal- and state-level statistics to look into county-level deaths in more granularity. The authors found that excess mortality was concentrated in nonmetropolitan areas, “highlight[ing] the need for investments in rural health as the pandemic’s rural impact grows.”

ANDREW C. STOKES; actokes@bu.edu
    Stokes is a demographer and sociologist with expertise in population health and aging. 

Stokes, who co-authored the study, told the Institute for Public Accuracy that the rationale for it grew out of the lack of estimates for the “total effect of the pandemic on mortality at the community level.” Stokes said: “It’s essential to tell the stories of communities who [have been] disproportionately affected––including Black communities in the South, communities of agricultural workers in California, and communities in northern Arizona on reservation land.”

One of the most alarming findings from the data was the “tragic toll of the Delta wave on mortality in the rural South,” Stokes said. “Rural Southern communities, including Black communities, were heavily affected due to failures in state policies and a failure to support rural health infrastructure––especially the failure to get ‘shots in arms’ in these areas. It is unfortunately also the story of the toxic mix of partisanship and misinformation that led to lack of [vaccine] uptake, and high excess mortality, in white communities in the South. We saw this in the data from rural Florida to Mississippi to Alabama. In the second year of the pandemic, there was this tragic [excess death] toll, which was largely preventable due to the availability of vaccines. But the root causes differed across communities and counties.” In some counties, the death toll can be accounted for by the failure to enact state policies.

“Governor Ron DeSantis has touted Florida’s low mortality rate. On a state level, Florida performs equally relative to other states. But look at Central and Panhandle counties: on the county level, those counties had exceptionally high Covid excess mortality in the second year of the pandemic. In the end, Florida’s response was not as effective as they may advertise. Florida’s big population centers did fairly well, but that was counterbalanced by poor performance in rural areas. The same [was true in] Pennsylvania. State-level analysis loses some of the nuance of the increasing rural/urban divide.” 

Stokes added: “Some counties, like Navajo County in Arizona, are disproportionately reservation and Native American populations. We unfortunately see remarkably high excess mortality there even after a period of widespread vaccination, due to a combination of social and structural factors.” Those communities thus sustained high mortality “despite strong takeup of vaccines… You wouldn’t see that effect in Navajo County if you just look at Arizona.”

“There also is a misconception,” Stokes added, “that rural America [equals] white people. Black communities sustained excess Covid mortality in later stages of the pandemic, and that reflects lack of access.”

Accurate reporting of excess mortality is important given that community-level programs, such as the funeral assistance program run by FEMA, are sometimes distributed based on what ends up on a person’s death certificate. Stokes said: “Excess mortality statistics show the true pandemic toll, correcting for potential underreporting that’s happened across the country. In places like rural Oregon, Washington, or the South, a large proportion of deaths are occurring outside hospital settings. There, deaths might be getting assigned to Alzheimer’s or diabetes or heart disease.”

Flooding in Vermont and Rural-Urban Inequities

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Vermont is currently experiencing its worst flooding since Tropical Storm Irene hit the state in 2011. Some regions are recording up to nine inches of rain in a single day, threatening the stability of several of the state’s dams, and experts expect additional flooding. 

ANNE SOSIN; anne.n.sosin@dartmouth.edu 
    Sosin is a public health practitioner, researcher and educator focused on issues of health equity globally and in rural northern New England. 

Sosin told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “This is an acute-on-chronic crisis. It’s a combination of the storm’s path as well as structural vulnerabilities. The storm is meeting a landscape that’s seen significant rain-flow in the last several weeks. We’re seeing dramatic images in Montpelier [the state capital], but in surrounding areas that are more rural, many of the roads into town have been cut off. Ambulances may not be able to get to hospitals; it’s harder to get in and out of those communities. We’re seeing rural inequities play out in both how the storm has hit and how it’s been responded to.”

Some particularly vulnerable rural areas may struggle with a “timely recovery. Just as disasters settle into the margins of society, recovery resources flow to the center––the areas that benefit from repairs. [Rural regions] may take longer to get back on the grid.”

Sosin praised the local action unfolding in rural areas. “But mutual aid can’t overcome large infrastructural damage or the structural imbalances in how a response plays out. Communities are mobilizing effectively by harnessing infrastructure from Hurricane Irene and the Covid-19 pandemic, but they’re not all on the same footing to mount a response or have access to repair for roads and waterways.” 

Sosin is also concerned about public health and health equity down the line. “Flooding presents an enormous health concern on many fronts: rapid flowing water; contaminated water; the environmental health risks when buildings sit in several feet of water; disruptions in access to medical care.” 

SAG-AFTRA Joins Writers Guild Strike

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MIKE ELK, melk@paydayreport.com, @MikeElk    Elk is the founder and Emmy-nominated senior labor reporter at Payday Report.    In his latest piece, Elk writes: “Today, over 160,000 SAG-AFTRA (The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) members in TV and film went on strike, joining the 11,000 Writers Guild members, who have already been on strike for nearly three months. The strike marks the first time the two unions have been on strike together in Hollywood in over 60 years.    “Early Thursday morning, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Dresher said the National Bargaining Committee unanimously recommended to strike. The national union executive board is widely expected to approve a strike Thursday morning, which will be announced at a noon press conference in LA tomorrow.    “SAG-AFTRA and the studio association AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) are far apart on critical issues, particularly on the studio’s refusal to regulate the use of artificial intelligence.    “With over 11,000 Writers Guild members out on strike, the studios had hoped to pressure SAG-AFTRA into accepting a contract that undercut striking writers.    “Many SAG-AFTRA members were incensed by comments made by studio executives to Deadline in which they described their strategy to isolate the Writers Guild from SAG-AFTRA while refusing to negotiate with the Writers Guild.    “By striking together, SAG-AFTRA has made it more possible for the Writers Guild to get a union contract. The studios have not negotiated with the Writers Guild since they first went out in May.    “Unions across Hollywood (such as The Union Solidarity Coalition, or TUSC) have also pledged to support SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild if they remain on strike. Hollywood unions hope to use their strikes’ momentum to cover other strikes.    “Many union members hope the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA can together shut down production across Hollywood.”

Realities of War 

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CHARLES GLASS, charlesglass@gmx.com, @charlesmglass

Glass in his new book Soldiers Don’t Go Mad reveals the lessons learned from  shell shock treatment during the First World War that the military failed to apply in World War II, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Psychiatrists treating shell shocked officers and men in history’s first mass industrialized war discovered therapies that worked for some victims and failed with others whose experiences were so horrible that cure was impossible. A few patients emerged from the trenches and the mental hospitals to depict their demons in some of the most compelling poetry of the 20th century. Shell shock became battle fatigue and then PTSD, an inevitable concomitant of combat everywhere. Glass recently wrote the piece “From ‘Shell Shock’ to PTSD, Veterans Have a Long Walk to Health.”

From the description of Soldiers Don’t Go Mad“From the moment war broke out across Europe in 1914, the world entered a new, unparalleled era of modern warfare. Soldiers faced relentless machine gun shelling, incredible artillery power, flame throwers, and gas attacks. Within the first four months of the war, the British Army recorded the nervous collapse of ten percent of its officers; the loss of such manpower to mental illness — not to mention death and physical wounds — left the army unable to fill its ranks. Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen was 24 years old when he was admitted to the newly established Craiglockhart War Hospital for treatment of shell shock. A burgeoning poet, trying to make sense of the terror he had witnessed, he read a collection of poems from a fellow officer, Siegfried Sassoon, and was impressed by his portrayal of the soldier’s plight. One month later, Sassoon himself arrived at Craiglockhart, having refused to return to the front after being wounded during battle.
“Though Owen and Sassoon differed in age, class, education, and interests, both were outsiders — as soldiers unfit to fight, as gay men in a homophobic country, and as Britons unwilling to support a war likely to wipe out an entire generation of young men. But more than anything else, they shared a love of the English language, and its highest expression of poetry. As their friendship evolved over their months as patients at Craiglockhart, each encouraged the other in their work, in their personal reckonings with the morality of war, as well as in their treatment. Therapy provided Owen, Sassoon, and fellow patients with insights that allowed them to express themselves better, and for the 28 months that Craiglockhart was in operation, it notably incubated the era’s most significant developments in both psychiatry and poetry.”

Glass’s prior books include Syria Burning and Deserter.

“No Labels” a “Trojan Horse for Israel Support” 

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David Sirota reports: “In an interview with Denver’s NBC station, No Labels co-founder is asked why the organization won’t disclose its donors now trying to buy ballot access in the 2024 presidential election. She answers: ‘Because it opens people up to incredible scrutiny.'”

PHILIP WEISS, phil@mondoweiss.net, @Mondoweiss
Weiss is editor of MondoWeiss and wrote the piece “‘No Labels’ — another Trojan Horse for Israel support without media scrutiny.”

He writes: “Maybe you’ve seen the boomlet of stories about a possible Third Party bipartisan presidential ticket in 2024. The organization behind the effort, No Labels, is headed by a veteran Democratic Party fundraiser and is trying to raise $70 million, according to the New York Times. …

“It’s led by Nancy Jacobson, an ‘uber-fundraiser’ for Democrats, according to Politico: a former finance chair of the Democratic National Committee who is ‘regarded as one of the most gifted fundraisers in the nation’s capital.’ Last year, Jacobson said that she ‘raised probably over 55 million dollars in the last 12 years.’ …

“The news coverage emphasizes the group’s bipartisan efforts on budget, infrastructure spending, and immigration reform. While No Labels’ own website says it is ‘finding nonpartisan solutions” for “our toughest political challenges.’

“The New York Times says that No Labels’ detractors say it has been ‘fronting for Republicans and existing mainly to raise large amounts of money from wealthy corporate donors.’ While New York Magazine mentions ‘shadowy donors who are paying for the show.’

“None of this coverage brings in Israel. But Jacobson told the Washington Jewish Week in 2020 that support for Israel is a core commitment. She bragged of creating the Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress (led by pro-Israel hack Josh Gottheimer) that attacked BDS: ‘Jacobson also credited the Problem Solvers for forcing House leadership to vote on a resolution condemning the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel. The resolution was praised by many pro-Israel and Jewish groups, though critics said it infringed on free speech.’

“In that interview, Jacobson urged elected officials to be open-minded and seek compromise — except on Israel: “There is no middle ground on Israel.” …

“Her husband, the political strategist Mark Penn, cited in some of the coverage of No Labels, is also a dyed-in-the-wool Israel supporter. …

“Jacobson and Penn’s family is an AIPAC family, Washington Jewish Week reports: ‘Jacobson said her family’s involvement with the Jewish community centers on support for AIPAC.'”

Assessing RFK Jr. and Claim That Covid Is “Ethnically Targeted”

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In a new video obtained by the New York Post, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suggested that SARS-CoV-2 may be an “ethnically targeted” bioweapon engineered by China to “attack Caucasians and Black people” and to spare “Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese” people. 

MICHAEL MINA; michael.j.mina@gmail.com 
    Mina is an epidemiologist, immunologist and pathologist. He is chief medical officer at eMed and has widely promoted the use of rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 since 2020. 

Mina told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “This video is somewhat remarkable. [RFK Jr.] has been spewing lies about vaccines for years, and he has an amazing ability to contort scientific information with enough credibility that people who don’t know much about the science––and even those who know some––believe him. He’s been doing it for vaccines for so many years,” alongside other anti-vaccine activists “like [Joseph] Mercola and [Andrew] Wakefield.”

Mina added: “This is an egregious example. [The 2021] study [that RFK Jr. cites] had nothing to do with SARS-CoV-2 pathogenicity and had nothing to do with suggesting that the virus has a predilection for targeting [people of] different races or ethnicities. The stuff coming out of his mouth is becoming more nonsensical and scary.”

Congress Declares Support for Israel as It Recognizes Morocco’s Annexation of Western Sahara

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The House is slated to vote on Tuesday to declare “the United States will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel” and that Israel is “not a racist or apartheid state.” Chip Gibbons states: “The Democratic ‘leadership’ can’t pass the Pro Act, codify Roe, or defend the right to vote, but have all the energy in the world to defend an apartheid state.”

Today is Nelson Mandela International Day.

Shortly after being released from prison, Nelson Mandela spoke for the first time at a special session of the United Nations, singling out solidarity with “Palestine and Western Sahara.” “We commend their struggles to you, convinced that we are all moved by the fact that freedom is indivisible, convinced that the denial of the rights of one diminishes the freedom of others.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog is meeting Biden Tuesday and speaking to Congress Wednesday.

On Monday, Israel announced that it was recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, inhabited by the indigenous Sahrawi people, which Morocco invaded in 1975.

The U.S. government claims to be against the Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine as a matter of principle, but it has recognized Israel’s annexation of Palestinian and Syrian land.

In 2020, Trump recognized the Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara in return for Morocco recognizing Israel. The U.S. and Israel are the only countries that recognize Morocco’s annexation.

South Africa’s Minister of International Relations, Naledi Pandor, earlier this year called on the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for the “leaders of apartheid Israel.” Also, see: “Mandela’s grandson faces racist abuse over Western Sahara solidarity.”

MUBARAK AWAD, mubarak@nonviolenceinternational.net, @NVIntlAwad is founder of Nonviolence International. He is of Palestinian origin and was illegally deported by Israel. He has visited Western Sahara, working with activists from there in their struggle. See material on Western SaharaIsraeli apartheid and illegal annexations from the group.

He said today: “The Biden administration claims to support a rules based order when it comes to Ukraine. I call on President Biden to apply the same international rules to Israel and Morocco. The Palestinians and Saharawis are suffering invasion, occupation and annexation with U.S. support. This must stop.”

SALKA BARCA, sbarca@karamasahara.org, @KaramaSaharaUSA
Barca is a native Saharawi and coordinator of a feminist human rights group, Karama Sahara, based in Maryland. She said today: “The Israeli official recognition of Moroccan ‘annexation’ is not a surprise. The Israeli regime has long been collaborating with the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. The Israelis provide Morocco with ongoing intelligence training, drones, and technology to repress and kill the Saharawis as the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. The U.S. is deeply responsible for both occupations and it is shameful.”

Peace Groups to Protest Cluster Munitions at Weapons Factory 

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A coalition of U.S. peace organizations will hold a rally on Saturday, July 22 at 11 a.m. ET at the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant “to oppose sending cluster bombs, and all weapons, into the Ukraine War.”

See “Scranton ammunition plant makes artillery shells for the war in Ukraine,” when the Secretary of the Army visited the weapons factory earlier this year.

The groups state: “the production of 11,000 artillery shells a month cannot keep up with the demand for killing. …

“That the U.S. would even consider sending cluster bombs into the Ukraine War, supposedly to make up for the lack of artillery shells, is horrifying and also clarifying.

“It reveals to the world just how little the U.S. cares for Ukrainian people and their futures and the futures of the Russian people. Corporations reaping bloody profits from cluster bombs are the only beneficiaries of this tragic policy and this war. … The Scranton Army Ammunition Plant is operated by General Dynamics, the fourth largest U.S. weapons producer, with revenue of $38.5 billion in 2022. …“Cluster bombs prove how ready the U.S. is to turn Ukraine into a desperate, barely governable country like Afghanistan or Iraq, where it also used cluster bombs, as one more way to dominate those nations and control their resources.“Cluster bombs expose the lengths to which the U.S. government is willing to go, the suffering that it is willing to cause, and the proxies that it is willing to exploit in its ceaseless effort to dominate the planet. “We must note as well that precedents set by the United States on the use of cluster bombs and the deployment of nuclear weapons to other countries are being used as excuses by Russia to do the same, and that the last remaining taboo — that against the use of nuclear weapons, must be upheld for the sake of continuing life in Earth.”The rally takes place in Biden’s hometown and they have asked him to attend. The groups call on him to “announce that the U.S. wants an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and the start of negotiations to end the war, and an immediate halt to all U.S. weapons shipments into the Ukraine War and the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons and weaponized drones from Europe.” The speakers at the rally include David Swanson, executive director, World BEYOND War; Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day and formerly imprisoned nuclear war protester and Dennis Hill, Black Alliance for Peace. Among the other endorsers are the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Veterans For Peace, CODEPINK, Pax Christi USA and Ban Killer Drones.

“Oppenheimer” Omits Information About H-Bomb Testing Just Before Scientist’s Career Was Destroyed

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THOMAS REIFER, reifer@sandiego.edu
Reifer is a professor of sociology at the University of San Diego and an associate fellow at the Transnational Institute. He worked closely with Daniel Ellsberg, whose last book was The Doomsday Machine:  Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

Reifer said today: “The film ‘Oppenheimer’ raises many important issues, none more urgent than the vast increase in destructive power that came with the making of atomic and then thermonuclear weapons. These latter hydrogen bombs were 1,000 times more powerful than those dropped largely on civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet even earlier the powers that be went ahead with the bomb project, despite concerns that it might ignite the atmosphere and destroy the world. Some have tried to discount this risk in reviews of the film, yet as Daniel Ellsberg (2018) showed in The Doomsday Machine, the uncertainties at the time were quite real.

“Unfortunately, the film doesn’t take the time to go into the period of U.S. testing of the H-Bomb, which along with the earlier atomic explosions, spread radioactive waste, and led to the infamous Lucky Dragon incident, about a month and a half before Oppenheimer’s security hearing depicted in the film. On March 1, 1954, the U.S. exploded an H-bomb at Bikini in the South Pacific, and Japanese fishermen, though outside the no-sail zone, were all sickened by radioactive ash and hospitalized, with one dying in September. This was at a time when Lewis Strauss was President Eisenhower’s Atomic Energy Commission Chair, and advisor on nuclear weapons, from which he orchestrated the destruction of Oppenheimer’s reputation, with the help of the father of the H-bomb, Edward Teller, and the Strategic Air Command of the U.S. Air Force under Curtis LeMay. The Lucky Dragon incident, not to mention the fate of downwinders from the Pacific Islands, the U.S. and more, shows the urgency of movements to dismantle our current doomsday machines which can trigger a nuclear winter. They highlight too, the dangers of nuclear-armed military alliances, aggressive war and the escalation of current conventional wars and preparations for war with China, that risk a nuclear holocaust.”

For more on “Oppenheimer” see interview with historian Gar Alperovitz, author of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, with journalist Andrew Cockburn: “A Few Things ‘Oppenheimer’ Leaves Out.” Also see by Sam Husseini: “‘Oppenheimer’ Omits Truman’s Lie About Hiroshima Being ‘A Military Base.’

Correction, added July 25: A prior version of this news release incorrectly stated that one of the fishermen died within days.

“Twin Crises of Israel”

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Mondoweiss just published the piece “New Israeli law is shock to U.S. Zionists, who fear break with American Jews.”

ABBA SOLOMON, abbasolomon@gmail.comSolomon is author of two books on Zionism, The Miasma of Unity: Jews and Israel and The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech “The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.”

Solomon writes about the “Twin crises of Israel: The crisis of a right-wing authoritarian takeover of Israel’s government is parallel to the permanent crisis of Israel’s Jewish supremacist rule over Palestine.“So far, the mass Israeli Jewish movement to protect democracy does not overlap with the Palestinian movement for democracy in Israel/Palestine.“Outside observers feel the causes must converge to recognize what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from a Birmingham jail called ‘a single garment of destiny. … Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. … This is the inter-related structure of reality.’

“The Israeli ‘pro-democracy’ movement’s sea of Israeli flags, exclusion of Palestinian flags, and the threat of Israeli Defense Forces reservists — key to continuing IDF raids and attacks on Gaza and West Bank communities —  to refuse deployment until the judicial overhaul is scrapped, illustrates that the cause is to return to Zionist rule as usual.
“A common criticism of Israel has been that the ‘Jewish and democratic’ state is democratic for Jews and Jewish for Arabs. This pro-democracy movement in Israel may force the contradictions in Israel/Palestine to a point of clarity.”

Thirst Strike Ends in Texas

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Representative Greg Casar (D-Tex) held an eight-hour thirst strike this week on the steps of the Capitol to raise awareness about worker conditions during heat waves. Casar also used the strike to draw attention to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s move last month to rescind local ordinances that established mandatory 10-minute water breaks for construction workers every four hours. The bill also stopped other local governments from passing similar protections

JULEY FULCHER; jfulcher@citizen.org 
    Fulcher is the worker health and safety advocate at Public Citizen.

Fulcher told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The strike is a very helpful tool to educate people––the public as well as members of Congress. This is an opportunity to draw attention to the issue [of workplace heat risk] and help people understand why it’s so critical to do something about it.

“Texas is uniquely problematic [in this realm], as it doesn’t have its own OSHA.” (About half of U.S. states have their own OSHA.) Workers in Texas see less workplace protections than in many other states. “This latest bill that [Abbott] signed is outrageous, especially in the context of the heat waves going on down there when he signed it. It’s one thing to not do anything to protect workers. It’s another to actively make it so that others can’t protect workers.”

OSHA Heat Standards

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This week, legislation was introduced in the House and Senate that aims to protect the safety and health of workers exposed to extreme heat. The bill, called the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness, Injury and Fatality Prevention Act of 2023, would compel the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish a permanent federal standard to protect workers in outdoor and indoor heat. OSHA standards can take several years to be finalized, but the bill would also require OSHA to issue an enforceable interim final standard within a year of the bill’s passage. 

JORDAN BARAB; confinedspace2017@gmail.com 
    Barab was the OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary from 2009 to 2017. 

JULEY FULCHER; jfulcher@citizen.org 
    Fulcher is the worker health and safety advocate at Public Citizen.

Barab told the Institute for Public Accuracy: The one-year deadline for the interim standard would be “much faster than under normal OSHA procedures to issue a major standard, which can take anywhere from seven to 20 years.”

He added: “The hazards of heat are nothing new, but it’s been more critical in recent months and years to get something on the books. It’s a climate-related hazard that kills people and workers all around the world.”

Fulcher said: “Everyone is in trouble. The danger of heat stress covers the entire country. [This summer] we have horrific heat waves with triple digit numbers all across the West and South of the country. But we are forgetting that people can die of heat stress at 80 degrees,” which marks the heat-death line. That is when we “start seeing people dying of heat-related illness. You have to calculate humidity and direct sunlight. Eighty [degrees]  can be more like 110 or 115 depending on the situation.

“It’s all about what the worker is acclimated to and used to. When a heat wave comes through that dramatically increases temperatures in [the] area, that has a huge impact on workers. In New England, where [a heat wave is hitting] 95, that’s a serious problem. Those workers are at serious risk––just like they are in Arizona.

“When we look at heat stress deaths, there are more in Texas and California, but they happen all over the country. It’s not just outdoors; it’s indoors too. Extreme high temperatures outside often cause high temperatures inside. Working with heat-producing machinery in factories” also increases indoor temperatures. “Workplaces might not have adequate ventilation or climate control, and many buildings that we work in, [like] warehouses, are magnets for heat.” Trucks, too, pull heat in.

New heat standards need to include a few key components. “The very basic, core absolute is to have constant access to cool or cold water to drink. Rest breaks also need to happen in cool locations––ideally an air-conditioned space, the shade, or well-ventilated [areas]. Breaks also need to be more often and longer based on the temperatures. It’s not just scheduled breaks. When your body can’t function, you need to sit down and take a break. Everyone is different, and some people will reach that overheating point when there’s no scheduled break… You need that flexibility in the heat.”

Fulcher also recommends “training for everyone: managers, owners and employees. Everyone needs to understand what the risks are, what the symptoms [of heat illness] look like, how to respond when they’re feeling heat illness, how to respond when the person next to them is showing signs [of heat illness], and how to respond in an emergency when someone needs immediate aid.”

New workers also need to be acclimatized to higher temperatures. “The majority of workplace heat deaths occur in the first couple days that someone starts a job. You need to get workers gradually used to working in the heat.”

Step Aside Joe Campaign Warns that Biden is a “Risky Candidate” to Defeat GOP

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SAM ROSENTHAL, sam@rootsaction.org, @Roots_ActionJEFF COHEN, jeff@rootsaction.org,
Rosenthal and Cohen are with the Step Aside Joe campaign, a project of RootsAction, which just released a statement: “We dread a re-run of 2016, when all the background noise about alleged Hillary Clinton corruption – such as high-paid corporate speeches and Clinton Foundation donations – hurt her with some voters on the fence. Pro-Biden news outlets have so far generally played down the evidence, but during a very personalized, one-on-one Biden vs. GOP candidate race, we think that drumbeats about alleged corruption of Biden and his family would have significant impact on some swing voters. We believe it’s one more reason Biden is a risky candidate.
“Right-wing partisans on Capitol Hill and in media tend to exaggerate every piece of evidence that makes Biden look bad, but even undecided voters might wonder about certain basic questions: For instance, as vice president, why was Biden the White House point person on Ukraine when his son was pocketing big sums of money from business interests there? Similarly, why was Hunter Biden flying to China aboard Air Force Two when Hunter had private business interests there?“Such self-enrichment allegations against the Biden family reduce the effectiveness of Democratic attacks on Trump’s get-richer-quick hustles and GOP corruption in general. Likewise, Biden’s mishandling of classified documents has reduced his ability to critique Trump’s more egregious mishandling of such documents. “As the group that launched Don’t Run Joe a year ago and now is persisting with the Step Aside Joe campaign, RootsAction believes there are more profound and crucial problems with the Biden campaign than corruption. We want a Democratic nominee who is progressive and dynamic – and can be a strong candidate against the Republican contender. Biden does not qualify.”Rosenthal is the political director of RootsAction. Cohen is the co-founder of the group.

FTX: Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One

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Late last week, campaign finance charges against Sam Bankman-Fried were dropped.

WILLIAM BLACK, snldebacle@gmail.com

Author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, Black was the deputy staff director of the national commission that investigated the cause of the savings and loan debacle.

He said today: “The New York Times journalist team consistently fails its readers. It created a precis (“What to Know About the Collapse of FTX”) that the online version routinely tacks on to any story about the SBF prosecution. It includes these gems (and excludes all candor). I provide a candid correction (in italics).

What is FTX? The now bankrupt company was one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. It enabled customers to trade digital currencies for other digital currencies or traditional money; it also had a native cryptocurrency known as FTT. The company, based in the Bahamas, built its business on risky trading options that are not legal in the United States.

FTX was a large financial fraud using fake accounting to inflate asset values so the elite insiders could loot it. The “exchange” was a front that hid the real operation (Alameda) that lost vast amounts and enriched the elite insiders.

Who is Sam Bankman-Fried? He is the 30-year-old founder of FTX and the former chief executive of FTX. Once a golden boy of the crypto industry, he was a major donor to the Democratic Party and known for his commitment to effective altruism, a charitable movement that urges adherents to give away their wealth in efficient and logical ways.

SBF is a fraudster. While he donated to Democrats, his top confederates donated heavily to Republicans to ensure bipartisan political support for the looting scheme. The elite insider looting funded the political and charitable contributions that made SBF and FTX appear to be honest and saintly.

How did FTX’s troubles begin? Last year, Changpeng Zhao, the chief executive of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, sold the stake he held in FTX back to Bankman-Fried, receiving a number of FTT tokens in exchange. In November, Zhao said he would sell the tokens and expressed concerns about FTX’s financial stability.

They began when SBF and his top confederates used fraudulent accounting and looting to make FTX appear to be highly profitable, and to enrich the elite looters.

What led to FTX’s collapse? Zhao’s announcement drove down the price of FTT and spooked investors. Traders rushed to withdraw from FTX, causing the company to have a $8 billion shortfall. Binance offered a loan to save the company but later pulled out, forcing FTX to file for bankruptcy on Nov. 11.

SBF and his co-conspirators’ looting and fraudulent accounting combined with their public financial illiteracy led SBF to rely on Binance for liquidity – which put an unscrupulous competitive rival with the ability to expose FTX’s massive insolvency by selling FTT’s token which Binance received for bailing out FTX. Binance used its leverage. 

 

Also see: “Why Did FTX Spend So Much on Politicians?

“Biden Says There’s No Blockade. Tell That to Yemenis Who Need Medical Care.”

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ARWA MOKDAD, mokdadarwa@gmail.com, @arwa_mokdad

Just back from Yemen, Mokdad is in New York City. She is with the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation.

The group is cited in the recent article in The Nation: “Biden Says There’s No Blockade. Tell That to Yemenis Who Need Medical Care.”

The article states: “There are just three flights leaving Sana’a every week. But Yemen has an estimated 71,000 cancer patients who need out-of-country care. …In May, 39 members of Congress signed a letter calling on the Biden administration ‘to pressure the Saudis to lift the blockade unconditionally — not use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations.’

“With a presidential campaign ramping up, Biden has an incentive to emphasize relief and openness in Yemen; the U.S. role in the humanitarian crisis — including rolling out the red carpet for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year, and ongoing weapons sales — goes against the president’s claims to embrace human rights as a foreign policy principle.”

Mokdad said today: “While the blockade has been eased, the amount of essential goods allowed in, such as oil and medicine, are still far below the needs within Yemen. The blockade must be fully and unconditionally lifted as it is a war crime that contributes to the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.

“During my recent trip to Yemen, I met families who have been in Amman for months waiting to get one of the few tickets to Sanaa. And these are the lucky ones who are able to even afford the tickets. The limited supply has made it impossible for the vast majority of Yemenis to travel. Three flights a week to a country of thirty million is not acceptable.”

Marked By COVID Calls for Pandemic Remembrance

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KRISTIN URQUIZA; for interviews, reach out to Christine Keeves at Christine@MarkedByCovid.com 
    Urquiza is a disaster equity advocate and the co-founder of Marked By COVID, a community-led Covid justice movement. Her father, Mark Urquiza, died of Covid in June 2020. 

Marked By COVID has a wide portfolio of commemorative work that the organization is currently championing. Urquiza argues that people bereaved by Covid-19 still need the country to “mark its losses and remember what happened.” The group is currently working on increasing pandemic remembrance, including garnering support for a bill first introduced in 2021 by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) which would designate the first Monday of March as a national holiday: Covid-19 Victims Memorial Day. 

The organization has also been working on plans for a permanent memorial space. If the memorial included all the names of the dead, as the Vietnam War Memorial does, “it would circle the National Mall at least 50 times.” Since the space would need to accommodate 1.1 million names, Urquiza says the memorial would be hybrid, helping it serve “as a hallmark to the unique experience we had of living online, losing loved ones through FaceTime or Zoom, and [attending] Zoom funerals. We’ve also been working with academics across the country to establish a crowd-sourced library and database to collect every single act of commemoration––big, small, permanent, ephemeral, online, in-person––to provide future researchers these tools and to show elected leaders that there’s an appetite for commemoration.”

Urquiza also emphasized the need for the memorial to be created by bereaved communities, “to define what this looks like as part of the healing process and to ensure that we’re hitting the mark about what the memorial needs to be.”

Missing Americans

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A new study assesses how many U.S. deaths would be avoided every year if the U.S.’s mortality rates were equal to other wealthy peer nations. Researchers looked at death rates from 21 other countries from 1933 to 2021. They found that starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, age-specific mortality rates increased in the U.S. compared to those peer nations––ie. mortality rates are higher in the U.S. than the rates observed in other places. By the time the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, 600,000 more Americans were dying every year than we would expect if the U.S. had mortality rates equal to comparable countries. 

By 2021, fully “half of all deaths under 65 years…would have been avoided if the U.S. had the mortality rates of its peers.” In other words, for every two Americans you know who died before the age of 65, one of them would still be alive had they lived in countries like Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan or Portugal. 

JACOB BOR; jbor@bu.edu 
    Bor is an assistant professor in the departments of global health and epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health.

Bor told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The state of health and policy [as described by a 2021 Lancet commission on public policy and health in the Trump era] is a product of the longer-running trends and the continuation of decades of disinvestment in population health and shifting policy that dates back to early ’80s… The number of missing Americans has increased year over year from the 1980s to the present. That was when we saw the U.S. diverge from other wealthy nations in terms of health outcomes. We wanted to quantify that divergence. What is the difference between what we observe and what we would observe if the U.S. were at the average? [Our data] is a counterfactual: it gives us a sense of just how much life is being lost. 

“Several news cycles have focused on the drops in [U.S.] life expectancy. [This data shows] what that actually means and how poorly we’re doing compared to other places. Life expectancy doesn’t apply to an individual; it applies to a population.”

Bor was especially struck by the fact that a disproportionate number of missing Americans die early in life. “It doesn’t have to be that way. We have Medicare and Social Security after age 65. We have reasonable programs for children. It’s working-age adults that we leave people to their own devices, force them to privately insure for medical care and bear all the risk themselves: housing, violence, foods, environmental exposures. If the U.S had mortality rates of other nations, fully half of all deaths before 65 would be averted.

“There has been literature on excess deaths in the pandemic. That literature compares 2020 and 2021 and 2022 mortality rates to prior mortality rates, or predicted mortality rates. That renders invisible the differences at baseline between countries. It’s not a coincidence that the U.S. had the highest mortality impact of Covid relative to other nations and the worst mortality rates pre-Covid. 

“There is also a large literature on health disparities between blacks and whites. White Americans are the reference category––but white Americans have done terribly in the last generation, population-wise. We’re comparing [black Americans] to a group that’s already not doing well compared to peer nations.

“The U.S. policy environment is the big story. [This data] shines a light on the ways all groups are suffering––before the pandemic and after––related to systemic gaps in the social safety net that are really quite different in the U.S. compared to other nations.” 

Oppenheimer and the Profiteers of Armageddon

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WILLIAM HARTUNG, hartung@quincyinst.org

Hartung is a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and the author of “More Money, Less Security: Pentagon Spending and Strategy in the Biden Administration.”

He just wrote the piece “The Profiteers of Armageddon: Oppenheimer and the Birth of the Nuclear-Industrial Complex,” for TomDispach, which notes positive and negative elements of the recently released film “Oppenheimer”: “The staggering devastation caused by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is suggested only indirectly without any striking visual evidence of the devastating human consequences of the use of those two weapons. Also largely ignored are the critical voices who then argued that there was no need to drop a bomb, no less two of them, on a Japan most of whose cities had already been devastated by U.S. fire-bombing to end the war. General (and later President) Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote that when he was told by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the plan to drop atomic bombs on populated areas in Japan, ‘I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.’

“The film also fails to address the health impacts of the research, testing, and production of such weaponry, which to this day is still causing disease and death, even without another nuclear weapon ever being used in war. …

“Another crucially important issue has received almost no attention. Neither the film nor the discussion sparked by it has explored one of the most important reasons for the continued existence of nuclear weapons — the profits it yields the participants in America’s massive nuclear-industrial complex.

“Once Oppenheimer and other concerned scientists and policymakers failed to convince the Truman administration to simply close Los Alamos and place nuclear weapons and the materials needed to develop them under international control — the only way, as they saw it, to head off a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union — the drive to expand the nuclear weapons complex was on. Research and production of nuclear warheads and nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines quickly became a big business, whose beneficiaries have worked doggedly to limit any efforts at the reduction or elimination of nuclear arms. …

“We need to abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us. Hopefully, Oppenheimer will help prepare the ground for progress in that all too essential undertaking, beginning with a frank discussion of what’s now at stake.”

Activists Converge to Protest Nuclear Weapons in Europe Which “Threaten Genocidal Violence”

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed with nuclear weapons on August 6 and 9, 1945. See new piece by IPA executive director Norman Solomon, “Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: ‘Nuclear Tests’?

SUSAN CRANE, susan.s.crane@gmail.com

MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761@gmail.com, @AmistadObrero

Crane is with the Redwood City Catholic Worker community in California. Colville is a founding member of the Amistad Catholic Worker community in New Haven, Connecticut.

They are among the members of a delegation of U.S. peace activists gathering in the Netherlands and Germany. They join international nuclear weapons protests focused on removing the U.S. nuclear weapons still stationed at the Netherlands’ Volkel Air Base, 85 miles south of Amsterdam, and at Germany’s Büchel Air Force Base, southeast of Cologne. Other U.S. activists hail from Arizona, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New York.

Coordinated by the Amsterdam Catholic Worker community, Peace Camp Volkel runs from August 4 to 10 and is focused on “climate and a future without nuclear weapons.” Participants from around Europe and the United States will conduct nonviolence training, blockades, “go-in” actions, and other protests. On 10 August, the U.S. activists will travel from Volkel to Kail, Germany for four days of protest actions directed at the Büchel Air Force Base, which, like Volkel, is now undergoing major construction in preparation for the delivery of replacement weapons, the new B61-12 thermonuclear gravity bomb, now in production in the United States.

See more information at the Catholic Worker Movement website. Most of the U.S. delegates to the two peace camps “have worked for years in anti-war and disarmament campaigns, and several have been imprisoned in the United States for nonviolent actions taken against the war system.” Ellen Grady, from Ithaca, New York and a member of the delegation said, “We have to take some responsibility for these U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in Europe, because they threaten genocidal violence and they destabilize the reckless and expanding war in Ukraine.”

The Volkel and Büchel Air Bases each maintain approximately 15 to 20 U.S. hydrogen bombs known as B61s as part of NATO’s so-called “nuclear sharing” program in which foreign fighter jets and their pilots routinely rehearse attacks on Russia using the U.S. H-bombs. Alarmingly, in the midst of the ongoing war in Ukraine, operation “Air Defender 2023,” NATO’s largest-ever nuclear attack exercise, ran from June 14 to 23 in the skies over Germany. War planes involved in the practice included U.S. F-35s, F-15s and F-16s from the U.S., Turkey and Greece; Eurofighters from Spain and the U.K.; German Tornadoes; U.S.and Finnish F/A-18s; Hungarian Gripens; and U.S. A-10 ground-attack jets, according to CNN. The A-10 jets fire the controversially toxic and radioactive shells known as depleted uranium munitions.

Battles Over Ukraine * Nuland * Rewriting History

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JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09@gmail.com
Carden is a former adviser to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the U.S. Department of State. He just wrote the piece “The Coming Battle: ‘Who Lost Ukraine?’ — An effort to rewrite history is happening in real time.

Recently Victoria Nuland rose to acting deputy secretary of state; Carden was featured on the news release “Biden Nominating Victoria ‘F*ck the EU’ Nuland” in early 2021, where he sounded the alarm about the course of U.S. policy if she held office.

In his most recent piece, Carden writes: “As it becomes more and more difficult to deny what is happening on the battlefield in Ukraine, a grinding war with hundreds of thousands of casualties, establishment media continue to present a picture of the war designed to rally the public, should its enthusiasm for this latest American overseas adventure begin to flag in the face of long and hard realities.”

He gives a series of specific examples in major media and continues: “In the nearly ten years since the Maidan Revolution, a handful of us have been sounding the alarm over the possibility of war breaking out between Russia and the West. For nearly ten years, a small minority of writers and thinkers have relentlessly advocated for a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis, and in the process have, at various times, been smeared, mocked, marginalized, denied employment opportunities, branded ‘terrorist’ sympathizers, and placed on a Ukrainian kill-lists for the crime of telling the truth about what has been happening in eastern Ukraine since 2014. …

“And as the war in Ukraine grinds on to its disastrous denouement, we can reasonably expect those who are responsible for helping set off this conflagration — along with those who cheered this ludicrous and unnecessary war from the beginning — to pay about as severe a price as that paid by the architects and cheerleaders of the Iraq fiasco: none at all.

“Advocates of a restrained and sensible foreign policy ought to prepare for an even nastier period of recrimination and finger-pointing that will make the Russiagate years (2016-2021) look like a time of national serenity. Indeed, it is all too easy to imagine that 2024 and the years following will be dominated by a ‘Who lost Ukraine?’ crusade not unlike the poisonous ‘Who lost China?’ debate that midwifed the McCarthy period of the 1950s. The coming campaign will no doubt consist of a litany of accusations of unpatriotic disloyalty leveled against American opponents of the war by a parade of Eastern Europeans and their vocal and powerful lobby in Washington.”

What to Make of the Covid Surge?

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Recent reporting has sounded the alarm on this summer’s Covid surge. But it’s been challenging for the public to know what to make of the numbers.

BENJY RENTON; bhrenton@gmail.com, @bhrenton 
    Renton researches vaccine access and equity and other issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic for Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Renton told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “It’s challenging to find good data on Covid for a number of reasons: testing has gone down, data sources are not being updated as frequently.” 

To mitigate the problem, Renton and his colleague, Jeremy Faust, put together a “1-stop shop dashboard” for Covid metrics, which they published in Faust’s Inside Medicine newsletter. The dashboard covers thousands of U.S. jurisdictions and includes data on wastewater levels, hospitalization rates and capacities, ICU census data, death rates, and some testing

“Hospitalization rates have been hugely valuable for us,” Renton added. Though it can be difficult to tease out the number of people admitted to the hospital with Covid versus for Covid (an issue that has comprised much of the public health debates over hospitalization numbers for the virus), “the for/with question misses the main point: which is that the people getting admitted to the hospital still do have Covid. [Currently], smaller numbers of people are being admitted primarily for Covid.” But Renton notes that in “tipover” cases, “people may have chronic conditions that Covid exacerbates or worsens. For people with diabetes or chronic lung disease, Covid can be more damaging and put [them] in the hospital. That’s certainly still something to pay attention to.” 

The U.S. has seen multiple summer surges of Covid. “This is a pattern of the virus, and something we will have to continue dealing with. Particularly in the South, where it’s hot, people are spending more time indoors [in the summer]. That’s an easy way for viruses to spread. But from the [numbers], the spike is all over. There’s not enough data to show where spikes are happening from preliminary hospital data.”

Renton emphasized that the current spike is not comparable to previous waves. Wastewater levels are a third of the Omicron peak in the winter of 2022; hospitalization rates are less than 10 percent of that Omicron peak. “The baseline is a lot lower these days.” 

Activists Arrested at Nuclear Base in the Netherlands

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A group of activists from the U.S. and Europe have been arrested at the Volkel air base in the Netherlands. The base holds U.S. nuclear weapons which the activists and legal experts charge violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. See coverage in the Dutch press.

The activists plan similar actions at Büchel Air Base in Germany.

SUSAN CRANE, susan.s.crane@gmail.com

MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761@gmail.com, @AmistadObrero

Crane is with the Redwood City Catholic Worker community in California. Colville is a founding member of the Amistad Catholic Worker community in New Haven, Conn. They are among the activists organizing the actions.

The group states that on Wednesday 16 “activists from the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the USA worked on a tunnel under the fence of Volkel Air Base with the intention of occupying the runway once again to call society to abolish nuclear weapons and CO2 emissions by the armed forces and to learn to solve our conflicts in such a way that other people and fellow creatures, large and small, plant and animal, do not suffer.” They had conducted a prior occupation of the runway.

The U.S. activists arrested include Ellen Grady, Brian Terrell, Jackie Allen-Doucot, and Theo Keyser. Fellow activists have been awaiting their release all day Wednesday.

For more on the action, see report from the Nuclear Resister.

See prior IPA news release: “Activists Converge to Protest Nuclear Weapons in Europe Which ‘Threaten Genocidal Violence.’

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

“Blatant Lie”: Secret Pakistan Cable Documents U.S. Pressure to Remove Imran Khan

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Ryan Grim and Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept are reporting in “Secret Pakistan Cable Documents U.S. Pressure to Remove Imran Khan” that: “The U.S. State Department encouraged the Pakistani government in a March 7, 2022, meeting to remove Imran Khan as prime minister over his neutrality on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a classified Pakistani government document obtained by The Intercept.

“The meeting, between the Pakistani ambassador to the United States and two State Department officials, has been the subject of intense scrutiny, controversy, and speculation in Pakistan over the past year and a half, as supporters of Khan and his military and civilian opponents jockeyed for power. The political struggle escalated on August 5 when Khan was sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges and taken into custody for the second time since his ouster. Khan’s defenders dismiss the charges as baseless. The sentence also blocks Khan, Pakistan’s most popular politician, from contesting elections expected in Pakistan later this year.

“One month after the meeting with U.S. officials documented in the leaked Pakistani government document, a no-confidence vote was held in Parliament, leading to Khan’s removal from power. The vote is believed to have been organized with the backing of Pakistan’s powerful military. Since that time, Khan and his supporters have been engaged in a struggle with the military and its civilian allies, whom Khan claims engineered his removal from power at the request of the U.S.

“The text of the Pakistani cable, produced from the meeting by the ambassador and transmitted to Pakistan, has not previously been published. The cable, known internally as a ‘cypher,’ reveals both the carrots and the sticks that the State Department deployed in its push against Khan, promising warmer relations if Khan was removed, and isolation if he was not.”

Available for interviews:

ABDUL JABBAR, ajabbar102@gmail.com
Jabbar is emeritus professor of interdisciplinary studies, City College of San Francisco, California. He said the truth of the situation “is buried under layers of disinformation. Take, for example, the following words of Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesperson, as reported in The Intercept coverage. It is a blatant lie.”

From The Intercept: “Miller said, ‘We had expressed concern about the visit of then-PM Khan to Moscow on the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and have communicated that opposition both publicly and privately.’ He added that ‘allegations that the United States interfered in internal decisions about the leadership of Pakistan are false. They have always been false, and they continue to be.'”

BIZAA ZEYNAB ALI, zeynab.ali@gmail.com, @zeynabali74

Bizaa Zeynab Ali is a New York based academic at the New School for Social Research and New York University.  She is also a representative of the Human Rights Legal Aid Foundation and the Pakistan Legal Fund.

JUNAID AHMAD, junaidsahmad@gmail.com

Ahmad teaches law, religion, and world politics in Pakistan and is the director of the Center for the Study of Islam and Decoloniality.

Public Pharmaceuticals to Mitigate Drug Shortages

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A recent STAT opinion piece argues that public pharmaceuticals are the best solution to the ongoing drug shortages in the United States.

DANA BROWN; dbrown@democracycollaborative.org 
    Brown is the director of health and economy at the Democracy Collaborative, where her research focuses on health and care systems, the pharmaceutical sector, and economic transformation for health and well-being. 

CHRISTOPHER MORTEN; cjm2002@columbia.edu 
    Morten is an associate clinical professor of law at Columbia Law School and director of Columbia’s Science, Health, and Information Clinic

Brown and Morten write in the piece that so far, proposed solutions to the record high number of drug shortages in the U.S. are simply “Band-Aids on a broken system.” What’s needed, they argue, is to completely “transform the incentives that routinely produce shortages and other market failures” by building out a robust public option to manufacture and distribute essential medicines. 

“The federal government has unique advantages when it comes to making medicines––advantages of scale, of distribution, of legal authorities to authorize use of privately owned patents when needed and even, perhaps, to order domestic companies to make vital drugs for ‘national public health.’”

Brown told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The profit motive is ingrained in the form of ownership [of pharmaceutical companies]. Because of the way the economy is structured, companies can’t really afford not to put profits first. They have to maximize returns to shareholders in the short term.”

Pharmaceutical lobbyists have argued that companies need tax breaks and federal subsidies to scale up the manufacturing of generic medicines. “Our contention,” Brown said, “is to stop funding a system that keeps failing us, and complement it with a long-term solution.” She added that other short-term solutions do exist, such as using existing authority like the Defense Production Act. Invoking the act would allow generic manufacturers to produce select patented drugs for the government. Generally, however, Brown said, public manufacturing aims to start by producing generics. “We know that prices don’t drop until three or more generics are on the market.” 

Public manufacturing is gaining momentum across the country, with California at the helm. Some states, like Washington, already have “broad legislation that empowers the state to produce or procure drugs from other states like California,” Brown said. “But at the moment, they have no money to back that up, and need to pass more appropriations to implement what they’re already allowed to do.”

She added: “Now that California is doing it, it makes it more real to legislators.” 

Brown notes that “politically and pragmatically, we are more likely to see faster movement on the state level.” One concern at the state level is to assure that all pharmacies can carry publicly-produced drugs. “The way that pharmacy benefit managers’ [PBMs] models work, PBMs get a cut of the list price of a drug. The more expensive it is, the more incentive they have to carry it. But they could get the post office or the VA to deliver those drugs. They could even pass legislation that grocery stores need to be purchase points.” 

At the federal level, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) will also likely reintroduce the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act this year. That legislation would reduce drug prices through public manufacturing of prescription drugs. 

Assassinated Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate’s Family Calls Killing a “State Crime”

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AP reports today on the recent assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who it describes as “a crusader against organized crime and corruption” as well as the assasination of political leader Pedro Briones on Monday, “bringing the number of politics-related slayings within the last four weeks to three. …

“Thousands of people have been killed over the last three years in Ecuador as the country has transformed into a major drug-trafficking hub and as cartel-aided local gangs battle for control of the streets, prisons and drug routes. Crime and violence have dominated the discussions leading up to Sunday’s election.”

JAKE JOHNSTON, johnston@cepr.net, @ceprdc

Johnston is a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., which just released a statement: “Family members of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio have raised suspicions of state involvement in Villavicencio’s assassination on Wednesday as he left a campaign rally. Others familiar with some of the details of the crime have also suggested there could be state involvement.

“Villavicencio’s widow described the assassination as ‘a state crime.’ Her late husband was under the protection of the state. Villavicencio’s sister has also blamed the Lasso government for her brother’s death.

“In April, members of the U.S. Congress, in a letter to President Biden, referred to  ‘documentary evidence that an anti-narcotics investigation had been shut down as a result of government pressure because it would have exposed the business dealings of a close associate of [Danilo] Carrera … with a well-known drug trafficking organization.’ Danilo Carrera is President Lasso’s brother-in-law and most important business partner.

“’Villavicencio built his campaign on an anti-corruption, anti-narco platform, and it seems he was targeted by those criminal organizations operating in Ecuador and with the complicity of the state,’ said Amanda Mattingly, head of ACM Global Intelligence, an international risk consulting firm.

“‘All of these connections between organized crime figures and government officials, up to the highest levels, give credence to the allegations that Villavicencio’s murder may have been a state crime,’ said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“Multiple videos show Fernando Villavicencio being escorted by police personnel to a vehicle that did not comply with the most basic security standards. The car was not an armored or bulletproof vehicle. The police confirmed this fact the following day in a press conference, admitting that Villavicencio’s armored car was in Guayaquil where he had been in the morning and that the car arrived five minutes after the deadly attack.

“The video material also shows that there was no security on the far side of the car, the flank from where the shots were fired. None of the police officers got in the car with Villavicencio. …

“Some investors and analysts say the assassination is likely to boost the odds of a right-wing candidate such as Otto Sonnenholzner or Jan Topic becoming president, while harming the prospects of current frontrunner Luisa Gonzalez, who represents the political movement of former president Rafael Correa.” See full statement for further specifics. Also see this recent New York Times piece.

Johnston is co-author of a just-released report, “Ecuador: A Decade of Progress, Undone,” He is author of the book Aid State: Elite Panic, Disaster Capitalism, and the Battle to Control Haiti.

NYT Minimizing “Forever Chemicals” Threat to Fish and Military Pollution

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The New York Times Magazine just published a lengthy piece “‘Forever Chemicals’ Are Everywhere. What Are They Doing to Us?” which focuses on the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic.

PAT ELDER, pelder@militarypoisons.org, @militarypoisons

Elder is the founder of the Maryland-based Military Poisons and has written extensively on PFAS and other toxins.

He commented on the New York Times piece: “It’s good that there’s some mainstream attention to this undercovered issue, but there are serious problems with how it’s addressed. A quick search shows me Faroe Islanders eat mostly haddock, plaice, halibut, herring, and shrimp. The European Food Safety Authority says up to 86 percent of the PFAS [Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances] in our bodies are from the food we eat, especially the fish.

“The word ‘fish’ is mentioned three times in the article while ‘drinking water’ or ‘tap water’ is mentioned 20 times. Consider this passage: ‘Among the groups most likely to be exposed to PFAS in their drinking water are those in low-income communities or who live near military or industrial sites. Subsistence fishing and hunting, which many rural and Indigenous people rely on, increases that risk.’

“This is not just about indigenous and rural folks. It’s about the state protecting the financial interests of several industries, from sport fishing to tourism to the restaurant industry — at the expense of public health.

“The NYT has this backward. I tested tap water from WSSC [Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission] in Clinton, Maryland close to Joint Base Andrews and found PFAS levels in the single digits while the MDE [Maryland Department of the Environment] tested fish in Clinton in Piscataway Creek and found 94,200 ppt of PFOS — just one of many compounds in the filet of a largemouth bass. One bite of this popular sportfish fish dwarfs the amount of the carcinogens consumed in a year of drinking water. We have documented fish near military bases with 10 million parts per trillion of these toxins while the EPA says it plans to eventually regulate a handful of these compounds in drinking water in the single digits.

“The article only mentions the military twice. Where I live in this small area known as southern Maryland, Joint Base Andrews, Naval Support Facility Indian Head, Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, The Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the Webster Field Annex of the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, the Naval Research Laboratory’s Chesapeake Bay Detachment, and the Naval Academy in Annapolis have severely contaminated the waterways in Maryland, including the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay where the crabs, oysters, and fish are dangerous to eat because of their high concentrations of a host of PFAS compounds. …

“Analysis by the lab taken from the beach just near my home shows levels at 6,449 ppt for total PFAS — levels in the single digits may multiply a thousand times in the filet of fish. I’ll be on a 20-city tour in Japan from Sept 10 to Oct 8. In Japan there is great strife over the American and Japanese interpretations of the Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA. The Japanese are not allowed on U.S. bases to confirm evidence of the carcinogens while the U.S. government deflects questions and denies liability.”

Axis of War? The Japan-Korea-U.S. Trilateral Alliance

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U.S. President Joe Biden, his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are scheduled to hold an official joint summit at Camp David on Friday.

TIM SHORROCK, timshorrock@gmail.com, @TimothyS

Available for a limited number of interviews, Shorrock is a Washington-based investigative journalist who grew up in Japan and South Korea. He is the author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence and is currently working on DMZ EMPIRE, his second book.

He recently wrote the piece “70 Years After the Armistice: The U.S. Introduces a New Trilateral Alliance with South Korea and Japan that Could Keep U.S. Troops in Asia Forever.”

See RootsAction article: “Rahm Emanuel Is Bragging About Turning Japan into a Warmaking Nation.”

Thursday morning, Shorrock put out a thread online which began:

“1. Washington has been encouraging Japanese rearmament and the merging of Japanese and Korean strategic interests since the first years of the U.S. military occupation of Southern Korea from 1945 to 1948.

“2. U.S. officials began seriously pressing for Japanese involvement in Korea during the Vietnam War, particularly after South Korea and Japan — under intense U.S. pressure — signed a 1965 treaty normalizing their ties for the first time since World War II.

“3. During the Obama administration, U.S. officials (like Blinken) tried to create an alliance with Tokyo and Seoul by encouraging the two countries to end their long-running dispute over Imperial Japan’s cruel exploitation of Korean sex slaves known as ‘comfort women.’

“4. But during the presidency of Moon Jae-in, a former dissident who championed engagement with North Korea over military confrontation, the idea was flatly rejected. Biden, during his campaign, called the Moon strategy of detente with the DPRK ‘appeasement.’ …

“6. Everything changed when Biden came to office in 2021 and Yoon, a right-wing militarist sympathetic to Japan, was elected to succeed Moon as president in 2022. Yoon let Japan off the hook. Both men embraced the idea of Japan playing a much greater role in military operations.” See full thread.

Shorrock will be participating in a webinar “Axis of War: The Japan-Korea-U.S. (JAKUS) Trilateral Alliance” on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Other participants are historian Alexis Dudden, Cathi Choi of Women Cross DMZ and SimoneChun of the Korea Policy Institute.

The Palestine Laboratory: X/Twitter Reportedly Working with Israeli Surveillance Firm

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ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN, antloew@gmail.com, @antloewenstein
Loewenstein, an independent journalist and filmmaker based in Australia, is author of the recently released book The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World.

He said today: “If current reports are true, and Elon Musk’s X is partnering with Israeli digital ID company AU10TIX to verify users, it’s a concerning development in the normalisation of Israeli surveillance tech in the West. My new book, The Palestine Laboratory, is a global investigation into Israel’s weapons and repression technology in the last 75 years. Palestinians in Palestine are guinea-pigs with Israeli spyware, drones, biometric tools and facial recognition companies testing their equipment on an occupied population.

“What happens in Palestine is being exported around the world to over 130 nations in the last decades. Israel is now the world’s 10th biggest arms dealer, selling some of the most sophisticated forms of surveillance to democracies and dictatorships. From India to Saudi Arabia and Rwanda to Greece, Israel’s occupation tools are ubiquitous in the modern state’s apparatus.

“For over 50 years, the occupation of Palestine, namely the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights, have provided Israel with the ultimate testing ground to develop and perfect the art of control. Many countries want to emulate Israel’s methods and learn how to get away with it. Israel has complete global impunity.

“The worldwide spread of surveillance tech, often built by veterans of the Israeli intelligence service who have spent years monitoring Palestinians under occupation, is a threat to democracy across the globe. In an age of rising ethno-nationalism, from India to Hungary to Israel, it’s vital to ask critical questions about the source and pedigree of any Israeli digital company.”

See Loewenstein’s recent interviews on MSNBC and “Democracy Now.”

Maui and Predatory Realtors and Lawyers

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TROY J.H. ANDRADE, tandrade@hawaii.edu
Troy J.H. Andrade is the Joanna Lau Sullivan distinguished professor and director of the Ulu Lehua Scholars Program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law. Professor Andrade has represented clients in matters relating to some of the most contentious issues in Hawai‘i, including the regulation of genetically modified organisms and pesticides, homelessness, and Native Hawaiian self-determination.

He is currently working on a book about the political and legal history of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. He recently wrote the piece “Portrait of a Queen: Hawaiian History and the Law” for the American Constitutional Society. See his full bio.

He said today: “I have a recent graduate whose entire family was displaced by the fire. As you can imagine, there are significant issues that need to be addressed to help Maui. There are deep historical injustices that are bubbling to the surface, particularly as it relates to land and water, in West Maui. Predatory realtors and lawyers are taking advantage of the devastation and inundating suffering communities. While we have our eyes on these issues, for now, many of us here on the ground are just trying to support our displaced and suffering friends and families. We are working to support our first responders.”

Tale of Two Espionage Act Cases – Donald Trump and Jeffrey Sterling

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A recent piece by CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling contrasts the current Espionage Act prosecution of Donald Trump with the prosecution of Sterling that resulted in a prison sentence.

In his article, titled “Donald Trump: Poster Child for the Espionage Act,” Sterling wrote: “It doesn’t take much to shock me, but that Donald Trump has been charged with violating the Espionage Act has me unequivocally astonished. I can’t say that I have many, if any commonalities with current or former presidents and I certainly take no pride in the shared tribulation I have with Donald.”

JEFFREY STERLING, jeffreys@rootsaction.org
Sterling is a former CIA case officer who was at the agency, including in the Iran Task Force, for nearly a decade. He filed an employment discrimination suit against the CIA, but the case was dismissed as a threat to national security. He served two and a half years in prison after being convicted of violating the Espionage Act.

The prosecution of Sterling was based entirely on circumstantial evidence, and he continues to profess his innocence. In his new piece, Sterling wrote that the Espionage Act’s “non-specific language creates an overly broad net that the government and the Department of Justice casts, unfettered in any direction it so chooses. How the Espionage Act is being used is ludicrous, but considering the DOJ’s track record in implementing the outdated law, it would have had a hard time NOT indicting Trump under it.”

Also, see the piece “How ‘Operation Merlin’ Tainted U.S. Intelligence on Iran,” by Gareth Porter, which notes that Jeffrey Sterling was “the case officer for the CIA’s covert ‘Operation Merlin,’ who was convicted in May 2015 for allegedly revealing details of that operation to James Risen of the New York Times.

Overtime Hours for Bullshit Pay

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Labor Day is Monday, September 4. Folk singer David Rovics just released his adaptation of Oliver Anthony’s viral hit “Rich Men North of Richmond.”

SARAH ANDERSON, sarah@ips-dc.org, @inequalityorg
OLIVIA ALPERSTEIN, olivia@ips-dc.org
Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-edits the IPS website Inequality.org. Alperstein is deputy communications director at IPS.
Anderson is author of the just released report “Executive Excess 2023” which finds “the ‘Low-Wage 100’ large corporations have spent more than $340 billion on stock buybacks since 2020.”

Key findings:

1. The CEO-worker pay gap at the Low-Wage 100 averaged 603 to 1 in 2022

  • Chief executives in this group raked in $15.3 million on average in 2022, while median worker pay averaged just $31,672.
  • Live Nation Entertainment had the fattest CEO paycheck and the widest pay gap. Michael Rapino hauled in $139 million, 5,414 times as much as his firm’s median of $25,673.

2. The Low-Wage 100 have spent more than $340 billion on stock buybacks since 2020

  • Between January 1, 2020 and May 31, 2023, 90 of the Low-Wage 100 reported combined stock buyback expenditures of $341.2 billion. This maneuver artificially inflates executive stock-based pay and siphons funds from worker wages and other productive investments.
  • Lowe’s led the buybacks list, spending $34.9 billion on share repurchases over the past three and a half years. In 2022 alone, Lowe’s spent more than $14.1 billion on buybacks — enough to give every one of its 301,000 U.S. employees a $46,923 bonus.
  • Home Depot came in second, with $28.9 billion in stock buybacks since January 2020, and Walmart ranks third, with $23.9 billion.

3. During their stock buyback spree, Low-Wage 100 CEOs’ personal stock holdings       increased more than three times as fast as their firms’ median worker pay

  • The CEOs of the 90 low-wage S&P 500 companies that have spent funds on buybacks since 2020 have amassed approximately $14.9 billion worth of their company stock.
  • At the 65 buyback companies where the same person held the top job between 2019 and 2022, the CEOs’ personal stock holdings soared 33 percent to an average of $184.7 million. Median pay at these firms rose only 10 percent to an average of $31,972. (not adjusted for inflation)
  • FedEx CEO Frederick Smith has the largest stockpile in the Low-Wage 100. His personal holdings have grown 65 percent to more than $5 billion since January 2000. By contrast, FedEx median worker pay fell by 20 percent to $39,177 (including $9,267 in health benefits) between 2019 and 2022.

4. Over half of the Low-Wage 100 receive taxpayer-funded federal contracts

  • Of the 100 companies in our sample, 51 received federal contracts worth a combined $24.1 billion during fiscal years 2020-2023. These low-wage federal contractors spent nearly $160 billion on stock buybacks over the course of these years.
  • Amazon is the largest contractor in the Low-Wage 100, with at least $10.4 billion in federal deals in the past few years, mostly from a National Security Agency web services contract.

See full summary and report.

Homelessness and Opioid Deaths

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Deaths among people experiencing homelessness in Denver have spiked nearly 50 percent since last year. More than half of the deaths of unhoused people in the city this year were linked to fentanyl overdose. About 70 percent of the overall deaths in the homeless population in Denver were due to drugs. 

CATHY ALDERMAN; calderman@coloradocoalition.org
    Alderman is the chief communications and public policy officer at Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), which works toward the prevention of homelessness throughout Colorado.

Alderman told the Institute for Public Accuracy: The fentanyl crisis among people experiencing homelessness in Colorado is “pretty startling. The number of people that have died on the streets is up substantially from this time last year. A large portion [of those deaths] are overdoses, and a large percentage of those are from fentanyl.”

Why are these numbers spiking? “People who are misusing opioids or who have substance use disorder are coming into contact with fentanyl more and more, whether they know it or not, leading to overdoses and deaths. Unfortunately, people in the cycle of homelessness are without resources. The level of desperation and anxiety and depression is exacerbated, and people need to self-medicate for [those conditions]. They also have the least resources, so no opportunity to know where the substances are coming from. They’re getting them on the street.”

“The criminalization aspect is also troubling,” Alderman added. Colorado passed a fentanyl criminalization bill in 2022 that allows police and prosecutors to bring a felony charge against anyone possessing more than 1 gram of the drug. 

CCH is a proponent of safe overdose prevention sites. The organization fought for a bill that would have allowed Colorado cities to authorize those sites, but the campaign died in committee in April. Alderman said that harm reduction policies are “more politically difficult right now. We haven’t made much progress because of the stigma and fear around substance use disorders.” 

King’s Dream and Economic Exploitation

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The 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech is Monday, Aug, 28.

E. ETHELBERT MILLER, emiller698@aol.com
Miller is a poet based in Washington, D.C. His books include If God Invented Baseball, When Your Wife Has Tommy John Surgery and How I Found Love Behind the Catcher’s Mask. He is quoted in the recent piece “How King’s words brought America closer to its best.”

He said today: “Many have a tendency to overlook King’s prepared remarks, preferring the soaring preaching of the second half of his remarks, when he delivered his eloquent lines — ‘I have a dream’ and ‘free at last’ — which is quoting a spiritual.

“The name of the march was The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King and others were looking at the economic conditions. He himself spoke of how ‘America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”‘

“Many don’t realize that the March was timed to be 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. That’s why it was in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The message was that the Negro was not really free.

“The key organizers of the march were A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, a labor unionist and a socialist.

“Support from celebrities was important, most especially Sidney Poitier and the recently deceased Harry Belafonte.”

Shortly before his death King would tell Belafonte “I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.”

Miller noted that Belafonte’s mentor was Paul Robeson, who was relentlessly attacked for his political activism.

In 1967, King said: “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people the giant triplets of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

In 1968, King would organize the Poor People’s Campaign, which strove to unify poor people of all backgrounds to seek justice. He was assassinated while helping sanitation workers organize in Memphis on April 4, 1968. The Poor People’s Campaign tried to continue his work in June of 1968.

Today, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has picked up this unfinished work.

Artificial Intelligence for Mental Health?

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A recent STAT newsletter reports that Woebot Health, a mental health company that uses artificial intelligence, is testing a new functionality using large language models (LLM) that interpret and generate text. The company has launched a two-week randomized trial of 150 participants to “gauge user satisfaction.” Some psychotherapists question both Woebot’s trial and STAT’s coverage of it.

LINDA MICHAELS; lindamichaels.psyd@gmail.com
    Michaels is a psychologist in private practice in Chicago and a co-founder of the Psychotherapy Action Network. 

Michaels told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “User satisfaction is a fairly meaningless metric to use if you want to measure treatment effectiveness. People can be ‘satisfied’ with what their therapist said, or even like their therapist, but those are very different things than what goes into making therapy effective. On the other hand, if you want to build a product and sell it and create customers and make money, then you might want to measure user satisfaction.

“A two-week time frame also might mean something in the world of for-profit app development, but it’s meaningless in terms of therapy, therap