Politics & Elections Biden’s Speech Pointed to a Possible End to Reagan’s Rancid Legacy Prisons & Policing New Report Looks at Strategies to Cut Incarceration of Illinois Women by Half Politics & Elections GOP Rebuttal to Biden’s Speech Flopped Because Progressive Policies Are Popular Environment & Health Hawaii Poised to Become First State to Declare Climate Emergency Environment & Health Progressives Introduce Huge Climate Bill That Rivals Biden Infrastructure Plan Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Progressives on Thursday introduced a $10 trillion climate and jobs bill that would reduce emissions, rebuild infrastructure and address environmental justice over the next decade. The bill rivals President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, which calls for a much smaller investment. While Biden’s bill calls for a $2 trillion investment in infrastructure over the next decade, the Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE) Act calls for $1 trillion per year over 10 years for investment in infrastructure, jobs and climate initiatives. The proposal is being led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) and it aims to cut climate emissions in half by 2030 and is centered around equitable change. Highlighting the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the American Rescue Plan, Dingell said in a press call organized by the Green New Deal Network, “[As the nation is] pivoting from relief to recovery, we’re working together to advance good paying union jobs, racial equity and climate action.” “The pandemic has shined a light on the cracks of our society. It’s placed a burden on vulnerable communities,” said Dingell. “That’s why we need a bold economic renewal plan, and the THRIVE Act is exactly what we need.” “The climate crisis is here. It’s here. This is not some future issue.” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colorado), a sponsor of the bill, highlighting wildfires in his state and public health issues due to air pollution. “The most expensive thing our nation has ever done is not be ready for this pandemic. So we have to do the right thing and make investments now to be prepared to save lives” and address the climate crisis, Crow said. One of the main focuses of the bill is job creation — a March report by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that the THRIVE Act would create about 15.5 million jobs per year. The bill stipulates that the jobs must be high quality, with at least a $15 an hour wage and with benefits like paid family and sick leave. “Unions and the environmentalists have come together and are working together to ensure that we rebuild our country’s economy with a focus on justice and healing,” said Dingell. The bill would also ensure that historically oppressed groups are at the front line of the transition to a greener nation by creating a 20-member board of representatives from frontline communities, unions and Indigenous nations to help guide where investments should be made. Fifty percent of investments from the bill, it stipulates, must go toward frontline communities, which suffer the most from climate impacts. “Policymakers cannot ignore the realities that are facing millions of Black, brown, Indigenous, immigrant and working families all across America. The four crises facing America are literally killing us. They are climate change, the public health pandemic, racial injustice and economic inequality,” said Markey in the press call. “We can’t defeat any of these crises alone. We must develop a roadmap for recovery that addresses them all.” The bill pays particular care to Indigenous people, and requires the government to respect Indigenous nations in the investments put forth by the bill. It attempts to ensure that Native communities would be consulted and their consent sought before things like pipelines are built on Indigenous territory. The THRIVE Agenda and corresponding THRIVE Act was originally introduced by the former Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), who now serves as the first Indigenous Interior Secretary, and who has long been a champion of Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Polling from Data for Progress last year showed that the THRIVE Agenda pillars, including investing in green infrastructure and recognizing Native sovereignty, are popular — and the agenda has gained over 100 co-sponsors since Haaland introduced it. The THRIVE Act also has the support of Democrats like Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Representatives Ilhan Omar, (D-Minnesota), Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Ro Khanna (D-California). Though it has little hope of being passed into law, elements of the bill could end up being incorporated into Biden’s infrastructure plan, just as parts of the Green New Deal have been embraced by Biden. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Politics & Elections Trump-Disrupted Census Hurts Marginalized Communities and Hands New Power to GOP Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem Environment & Health The More Biden Expands ACA, the Harder It Will Be for the Right to Cut It Politics & Elections Over 80 House Democrats Urge Biden to Lower Medicare Eligibility Age Economy & Labor Biden to Sign Executive Order Raising Federal Workers’ Wages to $15 an Hour War & Peace Biden Is Reviewing US Policy in North Korea. The Brutal Sanctions Must End. As protests for racial justice erupted around the globe last summer following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, many activists called upon corporate America to step up and fight for racial equality in the workplace and beyond, bringing to light a long history of discrimination toward workers of color. The push prompted a series of sweeping apologies and broad action plans, shifting the goalposts for what would be expected of corporations in their relatively new status as “corporate citizens.” Nearly a year later, many major corporations have assumed a similar posture following Chauvin’s conviction on murder charges, reminding the American public of their purported commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Amid mounting evidence that many police departments routinely display both implicit bias and outright racism, reports show that corporate America continues to pour millions of dollars into the police. One way corporations funnel money into law enforcement is through police foundations. As nonprofits, police foundations allow police departments to raise unregulated slush funds from undisclosed sources, generally meaning corporations or private foundations associated with wealthy families or individuals. Police have historically used this money to expense weaponry and special equipment that is not covered by their municipal budgets. “Police foundations are really good at hiding what they’re actually spending their money on,” Arisha Hatch, vice president of Color of Change, told Salon. “These foundations exist completely off the books.” According to Nonprofit Quarterly, there are about 251 police foundations across the U.S. A report last year by the government watchdog LittleSis found that a whole host of well-known corporations have been intimately involved with police foundations throughout the nation. One notable example is AT&T. Last year, Sludge found that AT&T was “an active donor” to the Seattle Police Foundation, which according to IRS filings amassed more than $1.5 million in contributions and grants in 2019 alone. Gothamist reported in 2019 that AT&T made an appearance as a “deep-pocketed donor” at the New York City Police Foundation, which collected $9.2 million in contributions and grants over the fiscal year ending in June 2019. Because these foundations are not subject to typical IRS disclosure laws, neither of them reported how that money were spent. AT&T is also a “Platinum Partner” of the National Sheriffs’ Association, a pro-police lobbying group that fights to preserve the 1033 Military Surplus Program, a government-run initiative that distributes surplus military-grade weaponry and supplies to police departments throughout the nation. In order to become a Platinum Partner, a corporation must donate at least $15,000. Asked about the company’s relationship with law enforcement, an AT&T spokesperson told Salon that the company supports “many civil rights organizations” and is “working with them to redefine the relationship between law enforcement and those they serve to advance equitable justice for all Americans.” Kevin Walby, an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Winnipeg, told Salon that any company that makes strong rhetorical commitments to racial equality should not donate to police foundations at all, saying that in doing so, “they are actually backstopping very racist policing practices.” Target is another corporate giant with deep ties to the police. On Tuesday, Target CEO Brian Cornell postponed a speaking event in anticipation of Chauvin’s verdict, later telling his employees in an internal memo: “The murder of George Floyd last Memorial Day felt like a turning point for our country. The solidarity and stand against racism since then have been unlike anything I’ve experienced. Like outraged people everywhere, I had an overwhelming hope that today’s verdict would provide real accountability. Anything short of that would have shaken my faith that our country had truly turned a corner.” One might assume such concern for racial justice would translate to the company’s spending habits. However, according to government watchdog LittleSis and Sludge, the Minnesota-based retail giant has donated to at least nine police foundations since 2015, including those in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles. Back in 2014, Target quietly donated $200,000 to the Los Angeles Police Foundation so that its affiliate department could gain early access to surveillance software engineered by Palantir, a company accused of whitewashing systemic racism with its supposed data-driven solutions to policing. Target has also supplied thousands of dollars in grant money to various law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The company reported that by 2011, it had given “Public Safety Grants” to over 4,000 law enforcement agencies. In that same year alone, Target said it had distributed more than $3 million in grants to “law enforcement and emergency management organizations.” A Target spokesperson declined to provide more recent figures on grant money. The company also declined to clarify whether its relationships with police foundations remain active, instead providing the following statement: “We also believe that team members and guests should feel safe in their engagements with law enforcement. We support holistic changes in policing that advance more equitable, community-centric policing that is grounded in innovative law enforcement reform best practices.” Numerous tech giants, including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, also support the police in ways outlined above. Amazon, for example, which claimed to “stand with [its] Black employees, customers, and partners” following Chauvin’s verdict, has supported the police in a variety of different ways. In 2019, the tech giant reportedly donated up to $9,999 to the Seattle Police Foundation. A company representative told Salon that the company has not donated to the Seattle Police Foundation within the last two years. Salon was unable to confirm this, since the foundation reportedly scrubbed all information pertaining to its corporate sponsors shortly after LittleSis released its report. Additionally, Amazon board member Indra Nooyi serves as a trustee on the board of the New York City Police Foundation, according to digitally archived information on the foundation’s website from last year. Meanwhile, AmazonSmile, the company’s charity initiative — which allows Amazon to donate 0.5% of proceeds from a sale to the buyer’s chosen charity — has helped pass along donations from customers to numerous police foundations, including those in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Cleveland. (This relationship has been publicly advertised via Twitter.) A company representative said that Amazon defers to guidance from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center on what organizations meet AmazonSmile’s eligibility requirements. These requirements state that eligible organizations cannot “engage in, support, encourage, or promote … intolerance, discrimination or discriminatory practices based on race.” Just this year, however, the SPLC published a feature calling racial bias in policing a “national security threat.” Neither the Seattle Police Foundation nor New York City Police Foundation responded to Salon’s request for comment. Coffeehouse giant Starbucks has visibly attempted to go above and beyond in demonstrating its commitment to racial justice. Last year, at the height of the racial unrest following George Floyd’s death, the coffee chain said it would distribute 250,000 shirts bearing the “Black Lives Matter” slogan to employees, flouting its existing ban on any apparel that “advocate for a political, religious or personal issue,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Just this year, Starbucks invested $100 million in “small business growth and community development projects in BIPOC neighborhoods.” Following the Chauvin verdict, Starbucks the company released a statement from CEO Kevin Johnson, which read in part: Today’s jury verdict in the murder trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin will not soothe the intense grief, fatigue and frustration so many of our Black and African American partners are feeling. Let me say clearly to you: We see you. We hear you. And you are not alone. Your Starbucks family hurts with you … We will be here for our partners in the Twin Cities and for each and every BIPOC Starbucks partner as we try to understand the systemic wrongs that lead to inequality. One might argue these “systemic wrongs” have been exhibited by the Seattle Police Department. In a 2019 “Use of Force” report released by the Seattle Police, the department revealed that it used force against Black residents at a disproportionately higher rate than white residents. According to the report, more than 31 percent of cases of police force used against males involved Black males, even though they make up around 7 percent of the city’s population. A subsequent “Disparity Review” that year found that residents of color were frisked at higher rates than white residents, even though white people were statistically more likely to be carrying a weapon, and that Seattle officers drew their guns in encounters with residents of color at a higher rate than with white residents. In that same year, Starbucks donated two grants totaling $15,000 to promote “implicit bias training” within the Seattle police and help the department host its “2019 banquet gala,” a spokesperson told Salon. The company also “contributed $25,000 to the New York City Police Foundation to help provide protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, and coordinated the delivery of meals to precincts.” The representative did not say whether there were any accountability mechanisms in place to ensure the money was used appropriately, but did note that the company does “not currently have any funding with the Seattle Police Foundation.” When corporations like Target and Starbucks give money to police foundations, it not only presents an ideological contradiction; it also presents a conflict of interest within the department itself, noted Walby, of the University of Winnipeg. “We only hear about donations” to police “when corporations want to celebrate them,” he said. “They want that halo effect. However, there are lots of instances in which the transfers and purchases aren’t made public. It’s an even bigger problem if they’re spending it on money that pertains to the corporation.” In 2014, for instance, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that the Los Angeles Police Foundation received $84,000 in donations from stun-gun maker TASER International (now known as Axon) prior to TASER’s contract with the LAPD. In another case, Motorola, a donor to the New York Police Foundation, was later awarded several NYPD contracts, as reported by Politico in 2017. “There’s a real potential for private influence in public policing through police foundations,” Walby said. “It’s appropriate to call this money dark money. Because we can’t really see this money going in. We can’t really see this money going out.” As the negative impact of police violence and criminalization becomes increasingly apparent in communities of color, Walby and Hatch argued, continuing to donate to police undermines corporations’ claims to awakened social consciousness. “Police departments across this country have plenty of money,” Hatch said. “They are well-resourced in a way that undermines other programs that could lead to safer and healthier communities.” “Any money for police reform just enhances the power base of police as an institution,” Walby said. “The institution can’t change conduct that is institutionalized. The funds should be given directly to community and social development groups, groups that actually have a chance of creating something like equality in our world.” This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Politics & Elections Tucker Carlson Is Emblematic of Today’s Republican Party Prisons & Policing Police Convictions Are Not the Goal. Abolitionists Have Bigger Dreams. Environment & Health Prescription Drugs in US Are Quadruple What They Cost Elsewhere, Report Finds Politics & Elections Biden Unveils American Families Plan, Which Would Establish Paid Leave Program Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem Federal agents executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning on properties owned by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who also served as former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer. The warrants are part of an ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors within the Southern District of New York (SDNY), who are looking into whether any laws were broken regarding Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine in 2019. Investigators searched the former Trump confidante’s home and office in New York City. Several electronic devices, including Giuliani’s cellphone, were also seized as part of the investigation. The search of Giuliani’s home and office were described by The New York Times as an “extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president.” Giuliani’s own lawyer, Robert Costello, decried the investigation into his client, suggesting the searches were unnecessary because Giuliani had offered to answer all questions except those he deemed as privileged conversations with Trump. Costello also attempted to use Giuliani’s career as a shield against allegations that he had done anything wrong. “Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States,” Costello argued. Prosecutors are examining whether Giuliani, while he was actively trying to find political “dirt” on then-potential candidate for president Joe Biden, had illegally lobbied for Trump to fire Marie Yovanovitch, who was then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in order to make the efforts at gaining compromising information on Biden easier to accomplish. Yovanovitch was seen as someone who would not go along with the plan for using foreign officials and oligarchs as a means to help Trump win reelection. The efforts at pressuring foreign officials, including Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, into agreeing to help the former U.S. president by launching an investigation into the actions of Biden and his family in that country, was the subject of Trump’s first impeachment, which began in the fall of 2019. Efforts to obtain a warrant to search Giuliani’s properties and belongings began long before Biden took office. Federal agents had sought a warrant several months ago, but were blocked by Trump’s political appointees in the Department of Justice while Trump was still president. Objections were lifted after Biden’s pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, was confirmed by the Senate to his appointment. “Trump’s stooge Bill Barr blocked this very warrant to search for and seize evidence of Clown Rudy’s crimes on behalf of Trump. What a difference a principled and independent Attorney General makes!” tweeted Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe after the search of Giuliani’s properties was reported. Although a warrant to search his home and office makes it clear that the investigation is ongoing, it is not clear at this time whether Giuliani will face any criminal charges stemming from the current inquiry by SDNY. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) reintroduced a $700 billion plan on Tuesday to make child care more affordable for families and establish a universal child care program over the next decade. The proposal would create a network of child care centers so that everyone, regardless of income, can have access to quality child care. It would also make child care free for those who make below two times the federal poverty line, and would ensure that no low- and middle-income families have to pay more than 7 percent of their income for public child care. Warren has previously unveiled a version of the plan in 2019, when she was campaigning for president.
Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Politics & Elections Tucker Carlson Is Emblematic of Today’s Republican Party Prisons & Policing Police Convictions Are Not the Goal. Abolitionists Have Bigger Dreams. Environment & Health Prescription Drugs in US Are Quadruple What They Cost Elsewhere, Report Finds Politics & Elections Biden Unveils American Families Plan, Which Would Establish Paid Leave Program Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem I have to talk about Tucker Carlson today, which is a shame. There are eleventy billion more important things popping off right now. India is literally on fire from all the bodies that are burning, thanks to COVID deaths; mass shootings are as common as birdsong this spring; and the giant segment of congressional Republicans who tried to overthrow the government are now pretending it never happened, and might actually get away with it. Even absent all that, I can’t recall a day in my life when Carlson rose to the level of immediately required attention. Alas, the day has arrived. Before we begin, however, I would ask you to take a few minutes and watch then-Daily Show host Jon Stewart obliterate Carlson on Crossfire in 2004. For those who don’t recall or never saw it, Crossfire was Carlson’s old CNN show, along with Paul Begala, that was canceled almost immediately after Stewart’s appearance. Stewart is generally credited for being responsible for the show’s demise, though Carlson claimed he had quit months before, so there. Watch it, and keep 2021 Carlson close in mind when you do. “It’s not so much that it’s bad, as it’s hurting America,” said Stewart of Carlson and Crossfire as the show opened. “So I wanted to come here today and say: Stop. Here’s just what I wanted to tell you guys. Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.” It only gets better from there. Peak television, that (rivaled only perhaps by comedian Bill Burr’s 12-minute foul-mouthed defenestration of the entire city of Philadelphia, but I digress). Carlson snagged an MSNBC show after Stewart burned Crossfire to the ground, but that was likewise canceled — along with his signature bow tie — a few short years later. After that, Carlson banged around on Dancing With the Stars for a bit (he was the first contestant canceled in season three, thus keeping the streak alive), before finally landing in 2009 on the always-available right-wing lifeboat for irrelevant conservatives: Fox News. Flash forward 12 years, and my, how things have changed. Back during his CNN and MSNBC days, Carlson always came off as a frat boy two drinks past the minimum who knows just enough karate to get his ass kicked. He put the time in, said all the right terrible things, pushed all the right terrible lies, and was finally given a show of his own. Now, in the gilded cocoon of his own niche on Fox, Carlson has the freedom to say basically anything without having to worry about a co-host or an audience to shut him down. A network that harbors the likes of Sean Hannity and “Judge” Jeanine Pirro isn’t about to censor Tucker’s boyish charm (shudder). Every so often, however, he will blow past the low-water mark of his last garbage commentary — like, say, his oft-repeated championing of white nationalist themes… oh, wait, that was just two weeks ago! — and find a whole new bottom of the barrel. Which brings us to our current estate. Earlier this week, which by the way saw a significant loosening of mask guidelines for vaccinated people by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Carlson took his brain for a long walk off a short pier. “Not even Tony Fauci still pretends that masks are medically necessary,” he lied straight into the camera. “Instead, masks are purely a sign of political obedience, like Kim Il Sung pins in Pyongyang.” Yep, it’s George Orwell meets Scrubs up in here. Why, the loyalty oath is printed right there on the inside of my hate-mask so I can whisper the words to the words as I plot the death of God while fondling avocados in the supermarket. Oh, P.S., a PBS report from 2/12: “Dr. Anthony Fauci says people will need to wear masks ‘for several, several months’ to avoid the coronavirus as vaccinations are rolled out.” Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America. “It’s our job to brush them back and restore the society we were born in,” Carlson went on to say of the “neurotics” wearing masks in public. “So the next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk or on the bike path, do not hesitate. Ask politely but firmly, ‘Would you please take off your mask. Science shows there is no reason for you to be wearing it. Your mask is making me uncomfortable.” Your mask is making me uncomfortable. This, from a mouthpiece of the party that promulgated the slur “snowflakes” to denigrate people with, you know, actual feelings. We know how welcome those are in the Trumpiverse. Whither comes such sensitivity, Tucker? “As for forcing children to wear masks outside, that should be illegal,” he raged. “Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from seeing someone beating a kid at Walmart: Call the police immediately; contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse. It’s child abuse, and you’re morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.” When it happens — and it will — the video of some Tucker fan calling the cops about a mother at a playground with a masked child will go viral at warp speed. THAT PERSON’S CHILD IS WEARING A MASK AND IT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE I WANT TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGER. Hey Karen! Your husband Ken/Chad/Terry is on the internet! As with those who have been fully vaccinated, the CDC has also released guidelines for children participating in summer camp or other group activities. Per The Washington Post: “Campers and staff members should be placed in small groups, or cohorts, to minimize exposure to other people, the CDC said. While in the cohorts, kids should stay at least three feet away from their peers and should wear masks at all times, except while eating, swimming and sleeping. When not masked, or with people outside their cohorts, campers should keep a six-foot distance. Whenever possible, camp activities should happen outside. Campers should avoid indoor sports and games that involve close contact. Disinfect. Frequently.” (Emphasis added.) Pro tip to Tuckerworld: Among my favorite activities is bringing my 8-year-old daughter to Robin Hood Park so she can frolic with other kids on the playground after a year of effective isolation. It is medicine for the both of us. She wears a mask around the other kids because I cannot be sure if the parents of those kids are being safe in their own sphere, and as my daughter loves to visit her Nana, this precaution has felt wise and safe. The new CDC guidelines on masks outdoors — again, for vaccinated people — may motivate me to change this habit. I have not yet decided, and it is my decision to make. If some Carlson devotee decides to take a run at me over my daughter’s mask because they are uncomfortable bearing witness to my child abuse, they will be invited to shove themselves up their own arse with such velocity that they quite simply disappear into themselves, like a dying star. Look, Tucker Carlson is a television clown. After his pet president got his butt kicked in November, and after a segment of his viewers sacked the Capitol in January, Carlson made the calculated business decision to be as far out there as he can be, and he has been rewarded with a noteworthy viewership from the Fox News crowd. The network is still trying to decide how to act post-Trump, they aren’t landing any punches against President Biden worth noting (Dr. Seuss? Hamburgers? Jeez…), and so Carlson is painting the walls of his studio with blood in an attempt to invite the rest of the network to follow him into the darkness. The so-called “culture war” Carlson is “fighting” is a giant fundraising scam the GOP has been running on its base to amazingly lucrative effect. Fox has been at the vanguard of that phenomenon for decades, and today’s GOP politicians — absent things like, y’know, policy to run on — are following suit so they have cash on hand for the next campaign. Carlson is angling to become the avatar of this scam, because it pays really well. Carlson’s audience is a mob writ large, bound together online and made braver with company, and he incants the words of bonding on a nightly schedule. “The GOP highlights culture-war issues to shake down rank-and-file donors while cutting taxes to please wealthy donors,” conservative columnist Max Boot noted recently. “Republicans have won the presidential popular vote only once since 1988, but they can’t afford to broaden their appeal by embracing a more populist economic agenda or by toning down the divisive social messages because either move would jeopardize the flow of fundraising. The right-wing money machine has become the tail wagging the Republican elephant.” If that were all there was to this, I would not have bothered giving a day of my life to some yowler on a propaganda network. The problem is, whatever Carlson and the GOP’s financial motives may be, their words have an actual flesh-and-blood effect on the GOP base that believes everything it hears if it comes from the right television station. Pundits talk about a “divided” nation, but that division is being violently exacerbated by people like Carlson, who take the basic medical necessity of masks in a pandemic and turn it into a reason to accost parents in the park… because they are uncomfortable. That’s the thing about a mob: It’s comfortable to be within it, even empowering. Everyone within knows that everyone else around them thinks and feels the same way, and they move as one like a wheeling flock of birds. Elements of the pack show the pack they belong to the pack by incanting the acceptable words and thoughts. Carlson’s audience is a mob writ large, bound together online and made braver with company, and he incants the words of bonding on a nightly schedule. These are frightened people who see their supremacy slipping away. Science as represented by masks, the very idea of sharing cultural influence with “others,” all of this scares them and makes them angry, so they find solace in the rank ignorance of the devoted ranks. Every time Carlson rings a bell like this, they feel stronger, even as their pockets get picked while Fox’s ratings rise. Look, Tucker Carlson is the living embodiment of low-hanging fruit in the media orchard. Jumping up and down on him is the equivalent of a child mastering “Chopsticks” on a toy piano. I feel dirty even writing his name. This is actually important, however. Watching Carlson wind himself up into a frothing rage over the Chauvin verdict compels one to believe he means it. Whether or not he does, he is, like the rest of the conservative universe, pandering to the bleakest elements of our society and counting coppers as quickly as he can while trying to get a handle on what comes next. Overt racism is the wave to catch on the right these days, and Carlson is right there carving the curl as best he can. A great many of the people who watch him do believe what he says, and we saw what they are capable of in January. Until this spigot of raw sewage is properly challenged, the poison will continue to seep into the body politic. There’s a sucker born every minute, it has been said. Tucker Carlson is out to collect them all. Were I offered the chance, I would repeat to Carlson the words of Jon Stewart from 17 long years ago: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America. Amazingly enough, it’s still not too late. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Politics & Elections Tucker Carlson Is Emblematic of Today’s Republican Party Prisons & Policing Police Convictions Are Not the Goal. Abolitionists Have Bigger Dreams. Environment & Health Prescription Drugs in US Are Quadruple What They Cost Elsewhere, Report Finds Politics & Elections Biden Unveils American Families Plan, Which Would Establish Paid Leave Program Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem On April 27, the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States issued its long-awaited report on the U.S.’s police-perpetrated racist violence. The Commissioners concluded that the systematic police killings of Black people in the U.S. constitutes a prima facie case of crimes against humanity and they asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to initiate an investigation of responsible police officials. These crimes against humanity under the ICC’s Rome Statute include murder, severe deprivation of physical liberty, persecution of people of African descent, and inhumane acts causing great suffering or serious injury to body or mental or physical health. All of the crimes occurred in the context of a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population of Black people in the United States, as documented by the findings of fact in the 188-page report. The 12 commissioners are eminent experts and jurists from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean. I am serving as a rapporteur who helped draft the report. After 18 days of hearings and extensive research, the commissioners found that both U.S. law and police practices do not comply with international law. Testimony of family members, attorneys, activists and experts about police killings of 43 Black people, and the paralyzing of another, was presented to the commissioners. All of the victims were unarmed or were not threatening the officers or others. Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, testified before the commissioners. At the press conference announcing the release of the report, he said, “I want to thank the commissioners for recognizing my humanity as a good Black man in America, and for recognizing my brother George’s humanity, and the humanity of other families across this nation. And bringing to light and acknowledging the United States government is perpetrating crimes against humanity against Black people in the United States.” “This finding of crimes against humanity was not given lightly, we included it with a very clear mind,” Commissioner Hina Jilani from Pakistan told the Guardian. “We examined all the facts and concluded that there are situations in the U.S. that beg the urgent scrutiny of the ICC.” The commissioners made the following findings of fact: 1. Pretextual traffic stops are a common precursor to police killings and uses of excessive force against people of African descent. Tavis Crane was killed by police after his young daughter threw a piece of candy out the window. 2. Race-based street stops, known as “stop-and-frisk,” often trigger the use of deadly force by police. Eric Garner was suspected of selling individual untaxed cigarettes. George Floyd was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill. 3. Fourth Amendment violations invariably lead to the use of excessive force and police killings of Black people. Breonna Taylor was killed following the execution of a “no-knock” warrant after a judge had replaced it with a knock warrant. 4. Police routinely use excessive and lethal restraints against Black people. They include Tasers, chokeholds, compression asphyxia, “rough rides” and the use of vehicles as deadly weapons. George Floyd died from asphyxia. Freddie Gray was taken on a 45-minute “rough ride” resulting in his death. 5. Lethal police violence against Black people is exacerbated by officers’ failure to provide medical attention. For example, Andrew Kearse was kept in the back of a squad car for 17 minutes as he begged for help, repeating, “I can’t breathe.” He died of a heart attack in the car. 6. Lethal police violence against Black people experiencing a mental health crisis is systematic. After Daniel Prude’s family called police to provide mental health assistance, he was walking naked in the street. The officers put a spit hood over his head after he began spitting. They held him face down on the pavement for two minutes and 15 seconds, and he stopped breathing. 7. Cis- and transgender Black women, girls and femmes are disproportionately killed by police in the U.S. A friend of Kayla Moore, a mentally ill transgender woman, called for mental health assistance for Moore. Officers found a warrant for someone with Moore’s birth name, but 20 years older. They arrested her, threw her face down onto a futon to handcuff her, and she died of asphyxiation. Then they made disparaging comments about the gender identity of the woman they had killed. 8. Systemic racist police violence kills and traumatizes Black children and youth. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot to death by police as he played in a park with a toy gun. The young children of Jacob Blake witnessed their father being shot and paralyzed by police. 9. Racist police violence traumatizes and devastates families and communities. Manuel Elijah Ellis was hit, punched, choked and tasered to death by police. “We’re broken, generations of us are emotionally tired. Our bodies are weathered, and it causes us physical illness. It causes us lifelong ailments and diseases. It causes us generational trauma that we are passing on,” Jamika Scott, a friend of the Ellis family, testified. “We are traumatized. We live in a constant state of PTSD, we are hyper vigilant, we are fearful, we are anxious, we are depressed,” she added. “It tears holes in families and communities. And it’s not just one family, it’s what happens to one family in this community, it happens to all of us. And it happens, it has lasting echoes throughout generations.” 10. Black immigrants are particularly vulnerable to systemic racist police violence and police killings. Botham Jean, born in St. Lucia, was eating ice cream in his apartment when an officer walked in, mistakenly thinking it was hers, and shot him dead. “What was she defending,” Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother, asked, “as the only weapon he held was the color of his skin?” 11. Legal actors are complicit in police violence and killings of Black people through qualified immunity and systemic impunity of officers. Police officers in the United States enjoy impunity for their racist violence. They are rarely held accountable for killing black people, and qualified immunity protects them against liability for violation of constitutional rights. a) Alarming pattern of destruction and manipulation of evidence, cover-ups and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors have a conflict of interest and medical examiners often do the bidding of police. After Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown as Brown raised his hands and said, “Don’t shoot,” the officer bagged his own gun and washed Brown’s blood off his hands. After police killed Henry Glover, the officers burned the car with his body in it. b) Prosecutorial misconduct and grand jury abuse. The offending officers testified at the grand juries in the killings of both Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, and in neither case was the officer cross-examined. There were no indictments of officers in either case. c) Systemic impunity and lack of oversight by police. Internal affairs investigations invariably exonerate officers. Police can’t be trusted to police themselves. The “blue wall of silence” keeps officers from reporting misconduct by fellow officers. Police unions facilitate impunity of officers. The police union got the body camera footage a few days after the killing of Daniel Prude but it took the Prude family six months to get it, and only after they filed several lawsuits. d) Qualified immunity. A recent U.S. District Court judge wrote, “[J]udges have invented a legal doctrine to protect law enforcement officers from having to face any consequences for wrongdoing. The doctrine is called ‘qualified immunity.’ In real life it operates like absolute immunity.” In case after case heard by the commissioners, victims’ families faced extraordinary obstacles to holding officers accountable for the killing of their family members. Violations of Human Rights The commissioners found that systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States has resulted in a pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include violations of the right to life; the right to liberty and security; the right to mental health; the right to be free from arbitrary detention; and the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including by the use of tasers, chokeholds and compression asphyxia. The U.S. Torture Statute only punishes torture committed abroad. The commissioners also found violations of the right to be free from discrimination based on race, gender, disability or status as a child. The “stop and frisk” doctrine is an invitation for racial profiling, and the Supreme Court allows pretextual stops for traffic violations even when the officer is motivated by racism, in violation of international law. In addition, the commissioners found violations of the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence, which constitute extrajudicial killings, as well as the right to be treated with humanity and respect. The commissioners found violations of the duty to provide medical care to detained persons; to ensure investigations of extrajudicial killings that are independent, competent, thorough and effective; and to prosecute suspects and punish perpetrators to ensure they are held accountable. The Commissioners concluded that the systematic police killings of Black people in the U.S. constitutes a prima facie case of crimes against humanity. The commissioners found that both U.S. laws and police practices — as documented in the 44 cases heard by the commissioners and national data — do not comply with the international standards on the use of force. According to international standards, law enforcement may only use force when strictly necessary, and it must be proportionate to the seriousness of the harm it is meant to prevent. They may not use firearms except in self-defense or defense of others, and only against imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm. Lethal force cannot be used to protect law and order or to safeguard property, according to international law. But Supreme Court jurisprudence allows police officers to use deadly force if they have probable cause to believe the suspect committed a past crime. No state laws require that lethal force can only be used as a last resort when necessary to prevent imminent death or serious injury. Not Just “a Few Bad Apples” The commissioners found that contrary to the popular notion that unjustified killings of Black people by police are merely the actions of “a few bad apples,” the real problem is structural racism that is embedded in the U.S. legal and policing systems. Collette Flanagan, founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, whose son Clinton Allen was murdered by police, testified before the commissioners. At the press conference launching the report, Flanagan called out police departments who “are still insisting that policemen when caught on camera using unnecessary deadly force are merely just a few bad apples.” On the contrary, she said, “We are into orchards of bad apples with trees that have diseased roots tainted with racism and white supremacy, and they are bearing rotten fruit.” “We are into orchards of bad apples with trees that have diseased roots tainted with racism and white supremacy, and they are bearing rotten fruit.” Indeed, from March 29 (the day the trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd began) through April 18, at least 64 people in the United States died at the hands of law enforcement. More than half of the victims were Black or Brown. Recommendations The commissioners addressed their recommendations to several entities, including the United Nations Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the executive branch of the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress. The commissioners recommended several reforms, as well as passage of the BREATHE Act, which is aimed at divesting federal resources from policing and investing instead in new approaches to community safety. The commissioners call on the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, upon receipt of this report of the Commission of Inquiry, to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity committed and condoned by officials in the United States. The U.S. has not ratified the Rome Statute for the ICC. The commissioners call on the executive branch of the U.S. to sign and ratify the Rome Statute. In the meantime, the commissioners recommend that the United States submit to the jurisdiction of the ICC for purposes of an investigation into these crimes against humanity against people of African descent in the U.S. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Politics & Elections Tucker Carlson Is Emblematic of Today’s Republican Party Prisons & Policing Police Convictions Are Not the Goal. Abolitionists Have Bigger Dreams. Environment & Health Prescription Drugs in US Are Quadruple What They Cost Elsewhere, Report Finds Politics & Elections Biden Unveils American Families Plan, Which Would Establish Paid Leave Program Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem This story originally appeared in The Guardian and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story. The massive melting of glaciers as a result of global heating has caused marked shifts in the Earth’s axis of rotation since the 1990s, research has shown. It demonstrates the profound impact humans are having on the planet, scientists said. The planet’s geographic north and south poles are the point where its axis of rotation intersects the surface, but they are not fixed. Changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet cause the axis, and therefore the poles, to move. In the past, only natural factors such as ocean currents and the convection of hot rock in the deep Earth contributed to the drifting position of the poles. But the new research shows that since the 1990s, the loss of hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice a year into the oceans resulting from the climate crisis has caused the poles to move in new directions. The scientists found the direction of polar drift shifted from southward to eastward in 1995 and that the average speed of drift from 1995 to 2020 was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995. Since 1980, the position of the poles has moved about 4 metres in distance. “The accelerated decline [in water stored on land] resulting from glacial ice melting is the main driver of the rapid polar drift after the 1990s,” concluded the team, led by Shanshan Deng, from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Gravity data from the Grace satellite, launched in 2002, had been used to link glacial melting to movements of the pole in 2005 and 2012, both following increases in ice losses. But Deng’s research breaks new ground by extending the link to before the satellite’s launch, showing human activities have been shifting the poles since the 1990s, almost three decades ago. The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, showed glacial losses accounted for most of the shift, but it is likely that the pumping up of groundwater also contributed to the movements. Groundwater is stored under land but, once pumped up for drinking or agriculture, most eventually flows to sea, redistributing its weight around the world. In the past 50 years, humanity has removed 18 trillion tonnes of water from deep underground reservoirs without it being replaced. Vincent Humphrey, at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and not involved in the new research said it showed how human activities have redistributed huge amounts of water around the planet: “It tells you how strong this mass change is — it’s so big that it can change the axis of the Earth.” However, the movement of the Earth’s axis is not large enough to affect daily life, he said: it could change the length of a day, but only by milliseconds. Prof Jonathan Overpeck, at the University of Arizona, US, told the Guardian previously that changes to the Earth’s axis highlighted “how real and profoundly large an impact humans are having on the planet”. Some scientists argue that the scale of this impact means a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene — needs to be declared. Since the mid-20th century, there has been a marked acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the destruction of wildlife and the transformation of land by farming, deforestation and development. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Politics & Elections Trump-Disrupted Census Hurts Marginalized Communities and Hands New Power to GOP Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem Environment & Health The More Biden Expands ACA, the Harder It Will Be for the Right to Cut It Politics & Elections Over 80 House Democrats Urge Biden to Lower Medicare Eligibility Age Economy & Labor Biden to Sign Executive Order Raising Federal Workers’ Wages to $15 an Hour War & Peace Biden Is Reviewing US Policy in North Korea. The Brutal Sanctions Must End. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) organized over 80 House Democrats to sign a letter calling on President Joe Biden to expand Medicare in his administration’s upcoming American Families Plan. The lawmakers are asking Biden to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60 or even 55, require Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and add benefits such as dental, vision and hearing to Medicare coverage. In the letter, the Democrats argue that this would be “a critical investment in health care to bolster the security of our country’s economy and families.” “As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic — the nation’s most acute health care crisis in the last century — now more than ever, we must ensure that families and older adults are equipped with the health coverage they need,” the lawmakers write. The lawmakers say that expanding coverage by lowering the eligibility age for Medicare is vital to the nation’s health and could provide immediate relief to many Americans. They cite a study by Stanford researchers that found that cancer diagnoses spike up at the age of 65 because many adults are suddenly diagnosed once they have health care coverage under Medicare and are able to seek out care. Lowering the eligibility age to 60 would provide an additional 23 million people access to health care, the lawmakers write. Lowering it further to 55 would expand coverage to over 40 million people. The letter writers also cite statistics on Medicare beneficiaries who still struggle with their health because basic versions of Medicare coverage don’t cover vision, hearing or dental. Statistics from 2018 from The Commonwealth Fund cited by the Democrats show that over 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries struggle to eat or hear, likely due to this gap in coverage, and 43 percent hadn’t had an eye exam in the past year despite having trouble seeing. The House Democrats who signed the letter are also urging Biden to address prescription drug prices. The U.S. pays the highest prices of any other country for prescription drugs, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) pointed out last month when he introduced a bill that would, similarly to the House Democrats’ request, also allow the government to negotiate drug prices. “By prioritizing the inclusion of robust drug-pricing provisions, we can produce enormous federal savings and use it to sustainably expand health coverage, equity, and access,” the lawmakers wrote. They argue that Medicare could save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies. The House Democrats’ letter comes just after Sanders and 16 other Democratic senators also sent a letter to Biden urging him to include similar Medicare expansions. “We have an historic opportunity to make the most significant expansion of Medicare since it was signed into law,” the senators wrote. The push by members of Congress for Medicare expansion comes as other progressive groups are launching a $6 million campaign “ahead of President Biden’s American Jobs and Families Plan address, doubling down on its commitment to passing a permanent, national paid family and medical leave policy,” according to Politico. The push is led by Paid Leave for All, a coalition of groups that are committed to getting paid medical and family leave passed in the United States. The U.S. is one of only a small handful of countries that don’t have guaranteed paid parental leave. Biden’s plan will call for paid family leave but reportedly calls for less than half of what other Democrats call for in funding for the policy. The Biden administration is set to release the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan on Wednesday, which will also contain proposals for making community college free and subsidizing child care costs using funds partially generated through a hike on capital gains taxes for the wealthy. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed a new law that would grant protections for drivers who hit and kill protesters while attempting to drive away from a protest and implements harsher penalties on people who block roads or highways during a protest. Democrats and activists decried the law as stifling protest and citizens’ First Amendment rights.
War & Peace Biden Is Reviewing US Policy in North Korea. The Brutal Sanctions Must End. Environment & Health Biden Is Providing Some Vaccines to India But Hasn’t Budged on Patent Waiver Prisons & Policing Justice Department Investigations Don’t Actually Challenge Police Violence Prisons & Policing We Are Fighting for a World Where Ma’Khia Bryant Would Have Lived Politics & Elections Americans View Biden as Doing Much Better Than Trump Did in First 100 Days Immigration Abuse and Lack of Transparency Fuel Vaccine Mistrust in ICE Jails “Not a surprise. But terrifying nonetheless.” That’s how Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein responded Sunday to news that India had requested — and Twitter had agreed — to have numerous tweets critical of the Modi government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic blocked from the popular social media platform. The Indian news outlet Medianama was the first to report the situation on Saturday, followed by Buzzfeed in U.S. press. According to Medianama’s reporting by Aroon Deep and Aditya Chunduru: Twitter has complied with government requests to censor 52 tweets that mostly criticised India’s handling of the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. These tweets, which are now inaccessible to Indian users of the social media website, include posts by Revanth Reddy, a sitting Member of Parliament; Moloy Ghatak, a West Bengal state minister; actor Vineet Kumar Singh; and two filmmakers, Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das. Uncompromised, uncompromising news Get reliable, independent news and commentary delivered to your inbox every day. Deep and Chunduru confirmed that several people who had their postings blocked were informed by Twitter what was coming ahead of the move and that the decision was based on a request made by the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It’s a bit old now, but for those interested in how this works: In 2019, @zidanism & I did a deep dive into the mechanics of this type of Twitter censorship (legal demands for country-specific censorship) taking the case study of Kashmir back in 2019. https://t.co/DIWfpBwocB — Avi Asher-Schapiro (@AASchapiro) April 25, 2021 In response to request, a Twitter spokesperson sent Medianama the following statement: When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter’s Rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only. In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they’re aware that we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account. We notify the user(s) by sending a message to the email address associated with the account(s), if available. Read more about our Legal request FAQs. The legal requests that we receive are detailed in the biannual Twitter Transparency Report, and requests to withhold content are published on Lumen. India is currently experiencing a serious surge in Covid-19 cases — averaging over 300,000 new daily cases over the last week and oxygen supplies running low and hospitals overwhelmed — as Modi’s handling of the pandemic has come under significant scrutiny from both within the country and from abroad. Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, reported Buzzfeed on Saturday, also restricted dozens of tweets that criticized Modi or shared pictures of India’s overflowing crematoriums and hospitals, in addition to a tweet from the Indian American Muslim Council, a Washington D.C-based advocacy organization of Indian American Muslims. That group shared a Vice story about the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage attended by hundreds of thousands of Indians earlier this month, and which turned into a super spreader event. “While hundreds of thousands of Covid patients are literally gasping for breath, the government’s alacrity in pressuring Twitter to block tweets critical of its handling of the crisis shows the administration’s moral compass continues to point in a direction that is shamelessly self-serving,” the Indian American Muslim Council said in a statement. Rana Ayyub — a journalist who has been writing dispatches from India for the Washington Post, TIME magazine, and other outlets — reacted with scorn Sunday to the latest reports, tweeting: Narendra Modi &BJP leaders response to reports of the Covid carnage in India. Seize properties of those talking of oxygen shortage, Suspend twitter accounts of those reporting the truth. What does one expect of a heartless regime that looks the other way as the country bleeds — Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) April 25, 2021 “I’m sorry,” wrote epidemiologist and health economist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, “but Modi’s authoritarian government can go to hell if they dare to silence the true human suffering” now taking place in India. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.