News

History Shows That Stacking Federal Science Advisory Committees Doesn't Work

deSmog - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 22:00
Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire

By Donald Boesch, University of Maryland

Scientists are busy people, but every year thousands donate many hours of their time without payment to advise Congress and federal government agencies. They provide input on all kinds of issues, from antibiotic resistance to mapping the world’s oceans in three dimensions.

The Trump administration has raised alarms by signaling that it is determined to replace scientific advisers who are not in line with its political philosophy. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is replacing most of the members of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors and, very likely, its Science Advisory Board. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has suspended the activities of numerous advisory panels, including many scientific committees, pending review of their purpose and composition.

Will Trump Cabinet members really be able to shift the scientific advice on which their agencies rely? And how should scientists respond?

var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '11970'; [Reuse options] Click here for reuse options! Tags: National Academy of SciencesConflicts of InterestTrump AdministrationU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyScott PruittRyan Zinke
Categories: News

Hazmat situation prompts evacuations at San Jose motel

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 21:43

Hazmat situation prompts evacuations at San Jose motel | 24 July 2017 | One person is being treated and 29 people have been evacuated from an Extended Stay motel on San Ignacio Avenue in San Jose due to a hazmat situation Monday morning. Officials said the substance has been identified as pepper spray.

Categories: News

Margaret Killjoy’s Fantastic Aesthetic Anarcho-Fun Heresy

Anarchist News - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 20:14

By Rhyd Wildermuth, via Gods & Radicals

Olympia is one of those towns subject to a relentless misdirection spell. No magician or witch cast it, though–it arose organically in the alembic of poor urban planning confronting wily land spirits and chthonic forces who will never quite care where you intended to go because they want you to show you something…or someone.

So my best friend and I were suddenly headed north through downtown Olympia, though we’d meant to go south. For the third time.

Fuck,” she moaned, trying to steer the van into a turn lane. “Again?”

It’s like something’s fucking with us,” I started, and then saw a figure crossing the street in front of us. I had no time to finish the sentence. The light was about to change, and the person would be gone.

HeyI’llberightbackIhavetogosayhitosomeone” I blurted out, jumping out of the van.

What? Where are you? Okay, I’ll park.

Among heretics, few words are necessary. When something happens to one, the other just knows. My best friend can stare suddenly down an alley mid-sentence and I don’t need to ask what she is seeing. I can jump out of a van in the middle of traffic and she knows something’s about to happen.

I ran down the sidewalk, then suddenly slowed, remembering that I looked like a 200 lb shaved-head man chasing a long-haired steam-goth down the street. That looked bad. Besides, my target seemed happily oblivious, lost in thought, so jumping up from behind her like that seemed really rather rude.

Hey,” I called, really clumsily. “Are you…? We’ve never met but you’re my hero.

That was the best I could come up with. I don’t really have heroes, let alone get a chance to meet the ones I do have. So I don’t really know how to talk to them, and I’m anyway awkward as fuck. But a few seconds later, my companion was behind me. “Holy fuck, Magpie?

Of course my companion knew them, too. Among heretics, there are no chance meetings.

If you’ve never heard of Margaret Killjoy, you’ve probably already encountered her anyway. There are a few humans who do things that make it so that other humans do things which then inspires others to do things. Like grandmothers, but not old enough to have grandchildren so they’re grandmothers to ideas and art and movements and ways of living. Margaret’s one of those people.

This is supposed to be a review of her new book, and it will be, I promise. But there’s that weird thing where reviewers are supposed to be objective and to disclose any relationship to the author they have, and that’s a really complicated thing to do here because I have to tell you some stories.

Stories like the one I began with, where I’m driving in a van with my best friend, who’s one of those people who also grandmothers existence into being, and then I see Margaret Killjoy crossing the street and jump out of the van and then my best friend comes up behind us and it turns out they know each other too, hadn’t seen or heard anything of each other for ten years and had been just as inspired by her as I was.

And there’s other stories, like maybe 15 years ago or more when I was trying to figure out how my anarchism and my Paganism fit together when all the anarchists around me were atheist and all the Pagans around me were bourgeois Wiccans. And then I read the introduction by Alan Moore to Steampunk Magazine (Margaret Killjoy was its editor), and then I realise that there are anarchists and occultists and they’re the same people. But I also realised there were anarchists who are into steampunk, not just into it because it was a cool aesthetic but because…well, because stories.

And myth.

And magic.

Because here’s why Margaret Killjoy was my hero for so fucking long (still is, actually). What she saw about an aesthetic built on fantasy and an alternative vision born of the industrial age is what every really good fantasist, but also every good theorist and mystic, sees: the world not only could have been different, it still can be. And not only can it be, but the certain sorts of people who give way too much time thinking about how it still can be different are the ones who have the potential to make it different.

Because steampunk ultimately was about what might have happened if all the clockworks and steam engines and airships didn’t go away just because the capitalist industrialists realized they were inefficient. We could still have had machines that made sense, whose workings you could watch, alien as they were to the peasants and townsfolk of Europe and its colonies. You could open up a clock and see how it worked, and because you saw how it worked you could have power over it. You could turn a valve that ran a factory and make the factory stop, or you could rig up your own brazier and basket and ask your geeky seamstress friends to stitch together a big canvas for you and next thing you know? You’re floating over the city with your friends.

Now? Now everything’s gotta be bought, even steampunk shit. The capitalists ruin everything.

Steampunk Magazine was an anarcho-anti-capitalist fantasy that felt just as true, just as possible as all the downtowns full of skyscrapers and stores full of credit card machines that ‘actually exist.’ There was something about the way it presented fantasy that made it feel less fantastic while making everything else around you seem like pure fiction. Why couldn’t the Luddites have destroyed the factories and replaced them with clockwork automatons so we all had time to build cool goggles and cobble together houses from machine parts or clothing from scraps, and then adorn it all in gilded Anarchy symbols made with cogs?

If humans can come up with the internet, Walmart, or nuclear waste, we humans ought to be capable of prettier shit, too.

That’s what I learned from Margaret Killjoy, back when I was a wee anarchist lad living in a crumbling two-story witch-house, planting sacred trees and hanging runes and sigils made from clock pieces and broken glass from their branches. Everything was possible, everything else was possible, and it could be beautiful and absurd and fantastic and fun and as anarchist as we wanted it to be.

Towards that end, Margaret put together a pretty awesome book, too. Mythmakers and Lawbreakers, a collection of interviews with and writing about anarchist fiction. For that book Margaret interviewed one of my other heroes, and even cooler got to stand next to that other hero and talk to people:

see video on Vimeo

Because Ursula K Le Guin is another one of those people who tell you that it’s possible to have and be something else if you just convince others that they can also do it too, at which point there are enough of you to make that world.

That’s fiction. But it’s also myth. And more than anything, that’s what magic has always been.

So, oh. This is supposed to be a book review and not a slobbering fanboy propaganda piece (but it’s that too). Because Margaret’s got a new book out, published by that swanky fantasy publisher TOR.

The book’s called The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion, and I think you should read it. You should read it if you’re an anarchist or a witch, and definitely if you’re an anarchist and a witch. And also you should read it if you aren’t, because it’s damn good.

It’s a novella, so I shouldn’t tell you too much about the plot. Except that it’s about squatted land in the middle of nowhere inhabited by people who decided to stop caring about gender or the State or buying and selling, and maybe also decided to summon a land spirit to protect their community against the police and people who might want to take over their utopia. And that goes wrong, just like many other utopias go wrong.

You get to read about some cops getting gored.

You get to read what it might be like to live in a world where gender and sexuality isn’t a thing people even think about at all.

And by reading it you’ll get to see what it might be like to live in a world where people write things like that, things that make you feel like even more things are possible, and that maybe one day we can live in a world where everything that we think of now as fiction becomes more true than what everyone else tells us is real. Because we’re already living in that world, in no small part thanks to Margaret Killjoy’s fantastic aesthetic anarcho-fun heresy.

The book comes out August 15th, but you can pre-order it from Red Emma’s. While you’re waiting you can read the first chapter here, and also read this short story by Margaret on Tor’s online site.

And check out everything else Margaret has done–it’s amazing, and maybe you’ll get as inspired as I’ve been.

Tags: margaret killjoyfantasysteampunkcategory: Essays
Categories: News

Contest Winner Disqualified Over Pro-Trump Instagram Post

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 19:32

Contest Winner Disqualified Over Pro-Trump Instagram Post | 23 July 2017 | A Kansas makeup artist says she won a national contest sponsored by Kat Von D Beauty but was later disqualified because of an Instagram post supporting Donald Trump's presidential candidacy.

Categories: News

Support the Cooperative Financial Education Kit

Grassroots Economic Survival - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 18:42
Link: Support the Cooperative Financial Education Kit

We are ABC: A Bookkeeping Cooperative, AORTA: Anti-Oppression Resource Training Alliance, Open Bookkeeping, and TESA Collective. As bookkeepers, educators, community organizers and co-op developers, we spent a year interviewing and surveying twelve partner organizations about their financial literacy and decision-making.

We found that most groups did not know how to bring an anti­-oppression and democratic mindset to their finance systems, and lacked financial literacy, systems, and management skills. That's how our vision for the Cooperative Financial Education Kit began.

What is the Cooperative Financial Education Kit?

The Cooperative Finance Education Kit will strengthen movements organizing for justice and the cooperative economy by increasing the financial literacy of the organizations that make up our movements.

The kit bridges the gap between financial literacy skills and justice-oriented organizing by creating a free, digitally downloadable multimedia toolkit that will be available in both Spanish and English.

Read the rest and support the project on Action Network

 

Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

How the Cleveland Clinic grows healthier while its neighbors stay sick

Grassroots Economic Survival - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 18:35
Link: How the Cleveland Clinic grows healthier while its neighbors stay sick

While Cleveland isn’t especially prosperous, the Clinic’s campus is a world apart, evoking an upscale resort or an airport’s international terminal — an alternate universe where smokers and fast-food restaurants are banned, where foreign-language speakers are numerous and where live music and farmers markets are frequent. [...]

The beautiful, sheltered campus reflects decades of willful development, says Richey Piiparinen, who studies urban planning at Cleveland State University and says that the Clinic — like many big-city institutions — has deliberately walled itself off. “It’s divorced from the neighborhood. It’s [even] policed differently,” Piiparinen said, referencing the Clinic’s private force of 122 officers. [...]

Just a few blocks from the Clinic’s high-end Intercontinental Hotel — where the flagship restaurant serves $49 steaks and $220 bottles of Dom Perignon — a McDonald’s sign announces $1 soft drinks. There are boarded-up buildings and weed-choked vacant lots. One store advertises bail bonds.

The population of the two neighborhoods that surround the Clinic — Fairfax and Hough, which are about 95 percent African-American — dwindled to 18,000 as of 2010, down from more than 38,000 in 1980 and more than 100,000 in 1960. There’s visible blight and houses with peeling paint. One fence was draped by an assortment of raggedy clothes, slowly getting soaked in a rainstorm. Unlike the Clinic just blocks away, there are no bike lanes.

And the poverty manifests in poor health outcomes, with the rate of preventable illnesses like chronic heart disease and high cholesterol well above the local and national averages. The Clinic’s own community assessment, published last year, ranked Fairfax and Hough as “highest need” possible in terms of health care access.

Read the rest at Politico

 

Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

Armed Chinese jets drive off US spy plane over Yellow Sea

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 18:25

Armed Chinese jets drive off US spy plane over Yellow Sea | 24 July 2017 | A US spy plane flying near the eastern coast of China was intercepted by two Chinese fighter jets and had to change course, US officials said. The surveillance aircraft was flying over international waters between China and South Korea. The incident took place on Sunday, unnamed US officials told reporters on Monday.

Categories: News

Distributism offers a non-statist vision for economic and social change

Grassroots Economic Survival - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 18:15
Link: Distributism Isn’t Outdated

Chesterton’s “distributist” project tried to chart a middle course (but not “Third Way”!) between laissez faire capitalism on the one side and state socialism on the other. The problem with the former, as Chesterton wrote in The Outline of Sanity 10 years after the Russian Revolution, was that “The practical tendency of all trade and business today is towards big commercial combinations, often more imperial, more impersonal, more international than many a communist commonwealth.” While of the alternative, Chesterton said, “the point about Communism is that it only reforms the pickpocket by forbidding pockets.”

Instead, Chesterton picked up and ran with what we might call the Lockean strain in Pope Leo XIII’s famous encyclical Rerum Novarum, the emphasis on the natural integrity of private property. For Chesterton, ownership is a self-evident good, which therefore shouldn’t be abolished but widely distributed. Similarly, profit is a good thing, in fact too good a thing not to be shared. Accordingly, what Chesterton took issue with in the then-current defense of capitalism was that it was a “defense of keeping most men in wage dependence; that is, keeping most men without capital.” This conviction compelled Chesterton to lambast big business (which backfired when big chain of news stands refused to sell G.K.’s weekly); to monitor and oppose mergers; to advocate independent proprietorship; and to pronounce on every possible occasion that “small is beautiful”.

Read the rest at The American Conservative

 

Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

TFSRadio: Shite The Right: Charlottesville (VA) July 8th Report-back Plus August 12th Announcement

Anarchist News - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 16:28

Download This Epsiode

This week William got to speak to two people about the anti KKK demo in Charlotesville VA on July 8th, plus about the resistance to a Unite the Right gathering proposed for Charlotesville on August 12th. We speak about what went down on J8, plus things to keep in mind for A12 and who all may be attending the event.

Here is some intro text from our guests that lays the groundwork for some of the things we will speak about:

In the wake of the Charleston Massacre in 2015, the Confederate flag saw a drastic change in social tolerance, and its removal from public institutions sparked widespread reaction from scores of White Southerners, even leading to further terrorizing and violence. Donald Trump's campaign and election saw these fires stoked further, now emboldening the more explicit White Supremacist dialogue that so many had attempted to distance the flag from a year earlier.

In late April of 2017, the city council of Charlottesville, Virginia voted to remove its statues depicting Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, and rename the downtown parks that hosted them as Justice Park and Emancipation Park, respectively. Local Confederate advocates such as the VA Flaggers and politicians like Corey Stewart had already inserted themselves into the dialogue, but they did not stop when the City's decision was cast.

With the assistance of local white activists a court injunction was filed to challenge and halt the removals, and only a few weeks later, White Power figureheads from across the U.S. descended on Charlottesville's parks unannounced for a day of rallies and photo-ops, in a calculated move to insert themselves into the conflict. Since May, the people of Charlottesville have been dogged by intermittent rallies, harassment, stalking, threats, and outright violence from these forces, all the while fighting to resist this fascist creep.

Just two weeks ago, on July 8th, the infamous Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Justice Park. Many from the city and across Virginia assembled for a peaceful counter-demonstration that sought to block the Klan from entering the park. This time, the police led a violent and one-sided escalation against those protesting white supremacy that included 23 arrests.

As the far-right and so-called Alt-Right's campaign in Charlottesville continues, August 12th has been set for what they hope to be a culminating event, a rally to "Unite the Right" in Emancipation Park.
With a special guest line-up featuring the worst of the worst, they are counting on even greater numbers of alt-righters, Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, neo-confederates, militia groups, and even biker gangs to converge from all corners of the country, with aims not only of unification but of violent retribution against those who oppose them.

A call to action for A12 resistance and detailed information chronicling this struggle, including how to support those arrested on July 8th, can be found at solidaritycville.com, and you can contact Defend.Cville@protonmail.com for more. Use #DefendCville and #TheNewKKK for news and conversation before, during, and after A12; and most importantly, show up to support Charlottesville and help send these Nazis packing!

To support those who were arrested resisting the KKK on July 8th please visit https://fundly.com/virginia-anti-racist-bail-fund

98FM podcast coming out soon
Keep an ear out for a special podcast segment we’ll release this week about 98Fm, Radiozones Of Subersive Expression in Athens Greece. This is the squatted pirate radio station we were going on and on about during the interview on Its Going Down. Well, as you may have heard on B(A)D News: Angry Voices From Around The World #2 last week, they’ve been having some issues with the Telecommunication Ministry, the police, a commercial pirate station and the University where they squat. So, we chat about it for about 45 minutes and they tell us about what’s going on in Greece these days. Take a peek at our website mid week for this interview.

Announcements
Updates from Comrade Malik Washington
Now a quick announcement from the dungeons of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice:
Comrades incarcerated in the "Ad-Seg"--that is, solitary confinement"--block at the Eastham Unit in Texas are reporting that mentally ill prisoners who are unable to care for their own physical health and hygiene are being utterly neglected by prison COs, and even by mental health personnel supposedly tasked with oversight functions at the prison.

Comrade Kado is an occupant of the Ad-Seg unit who has seen this neglect firsthand, related in a recent communication that his concern for one particular individual on the block has become acute. He writes, "It is known that this man is mentally ill. If engaged directly in conversation, he is able to respond, although only in very short sentences. He knows he is from Nebraska, and that he is here for “trespassing too much”... when asked why he's in solitary, he states “they want me to do work and it's too hard” or “the guards yellin' all the time, I get upset”.

Each time Comrade Kado tried to engage the prison staff about getting some assistance for this man, who had been living for months in his own filth, in a roach-infested cell, he was ignored or told he can't advocate for fellow inmates. Well-known prison activist and human rights advocate Comrade Malik Washington, who also resides on this unit, similarly tried to speak out on behalf of this person, and he, too, was promptly told to mind his own business.

A major concern is that this man could become ill from the deadly heat people in Texas prison are regularly exposed to; this is a concern for ALL Texas prisoners, but especially those who no longer (or maybe never did) possess the cognitive ability to advocate for themselves. As Comrade Malik writes, "[This man] lives only 3 cells away from me. He has no fan and really doesn't know or understand how to ask for one, so he suffers more than the normal prisoner in ad seg...And yet from the senior warden all the way down to the lowest-ranking correctional officer, no-one sees the importance or urgency of obtaining a fan for this mentally ill humyn being!"

Officials at Eastham will not succeed in destroying solidarity amongst imprisoned people. Comrades Kado and Malik will continue speaking out for their fellow incarcerated brothers and sisters--and they need our help!! Take a minute to call Bryan Collier, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, at (512) 463-9988, to tell him that mentally ill prisoners need to be properly cared for. And if you want to learn more about this pressure campaign and about prisoner advocacy, write to Comrade Kado at:

Noah Coffin
#1795167
Eastham Unit
2665 Prison Road #1
Lovelady, TX 75851

Dare to struggle! Dare to win! All power to the people!

J20 Week of Solidarity
This is the week of solidarity with the over-200-people arrested during the protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20th, known as the J20 defendants. Among the ways to get involved, one could thrown a fundraiser, attend a fundraiser, do graffiti, drop a banner, have an info-session to teach people about it, re-socialize your local Fox News outlet and read a statement on the air, plaster your social media, talk to your awkward manarchist uncle Jerry, and otherwise raise awareness that might support the support lawyers in their attempt on July 27th to get the charges against the J20 defendents dismissed. More info on events ongoing can be found at defendj20resistance.org.

Za in NYC with the Wobs for J20
If you’re in New York and wanna have some pizza about this, the New York City General Defense Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World is organizing a pizza dinner as a benefit of the over 200 people who were arrested in Washington D.C. on Inauguration Day. Here's a fedbook post for the event, and here's where the funds are being collected if you can't make it but wanna give.
WHEN: Saturday, August 5, 2017 from 4 P.M. to 4 A.M.
WHERE: Rebecca's, 610 Bushwick Ave., Brooklyn NY 11206

Fire Inside Zine & Tour
From FireInside.noblogs.org, we read an announcement about Firehawk & Ben's upcoming rust-belt tour with a zine compiling the experiences of prisoners of the September 9th #PrisonStrike from last year in the prisoners own words, as well as info about the August 19th Millions for Prisoner Justice march this year.

July 25th day of International Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners
From IGD
Tuesday, July 25th, marks the 3rd Annual International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners. In the aftermath of the fiery protests against the G20—and the arrests of hundreds of comrades—we are again reminded that the embers of direct action need long-term prisoner support in order to keep the flame of resistance strong. Some forty G20 protesters remain in prison in Hamburg and need our solidarity.

Here's a list of prisoners needing support.

Mike Williams
From IGD
Longtime Sacramento activist and indigenous elder Mike Williams is one of three people of color who face charges stemming from the antifascist mobilization which shut down a neo-Nazi rally in June of 2016. Only one neo-Nazi, William Planer, is facing charges, and he was only arrested after vandalizing a synagogue in Denver, CO. Mike is currently facing massive charges and a high bail. Please support him here and share the fundraising link far and wide along with this article to raise awareness of his case.

Check out the full post for more details.

Playlist here

Tags: american southVirginiaweekly podcastpodcastsRadioThe Final StrawInterviewantifaAnti racistkkkNeo-Naziscategory: Projects
Categories: News

Ohio Politician Pushes "Let Them Die" Proposal in Response to Opioid Overdoses

Truth Out - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 15:19

Let them die.

That's Middletown, Ohio, City Council member Dan Picard's barbaric "solution" for the opioid epidemic ravaging his town and much of the rest of the country.

In June, Picard floated the idea of a "three strikes" policy for those suffering from overdoses. Paramedics would be authorized to use naloxone -- the generic version of the brand-name drug Narcan, and the main drug used in overdose emergencies -- in the first two cases of overdose. But if a person suffers a third overdose, they would be denied treatment -- and left to die.

The reason? Picard cited a report saying that the cost of paramedics responding to each overdose and administering naloxone is $1,104.

Middletown is one of the communities, especially located in the Midwestern "Rust Belt," in the midst of an opioid crisis that is resulting in a spike of overdoses and deaths. According to a Washington Post report in late June:

So far in 2017, Middletown paramedics have made 598 overdose runs, a 300 percent increase from this point last year. The city has spent more than $2 million responding to overdoses, nearly 10 percent of what it collects annually in tax revenue, said Picard, who has been a council member for nearly eight years but won't be running for election when his term ends this year.

"It's not a proposal to solve the drug problem," Picard later tried to explain to the Post. "My proposal is in regard to the financial survivability of our city. If we're spending $2 million this year and $4 million next year and $6 million after that, we're in trouble. We're going to have to start laying off. We're going to have to raise taxes."

Apparently, keeping taxes down comes before the saving lives of the residents who pay them.

There's no doubt that the opioid crisis is causing a strain on emergency services and other resources in many cities. But the idea of letting people die -- which is almost certainly illegal, by the way, since emergency personnel are required by law to administer treatment -- can only be described as monstrous.

But Picard was matter of fact in explaining his plan to create a database of those who have overdosed in the past. "We'll have that list and when we get a call, the dispatcher will ask who is the person who has overdosed," Picard said. "And if it's someone who has already been provided services twice, we'll advise them that we're not going to provide further services -- and we will not send out an ambulance."

The rationale, according to Picard, is to frighten people away from overdosing in Middletown. "I want to send a message to the world that you don't want to come to Middletown to overdose because someone might not come with Narcan and save your life," he told the Journal-News. "We need to put a fear about overdosing in Middletown."

He further noted that "people with cancer don't get free chemotherapy from medics nor do people having heart attacks get a free heart bypass in an EMS run."

Never mind that people with cancer should get free chemotherapy and people having heart attacks should get free heart bypasses if they need them. For Picard, those suffering from overdoses simply aren't worth saving.

***

AS NPR reported, were it to ever see the light of day, Picard's proposal would lead to more deaths -- but it likely wouldn't save the city all that much money, because only 15 percent of overdose runs are for people who have had multiple overdoses. The rest are for first-time overdoses, another side of the spread of the opioid crisis.

According to an analysis of state health departments and coroner figures released by The New York Times in June, 2016 likely saw the largest jump in overdose deaths on record -- hitting 59,000, a 19 percent rise over 2015. The data pointed to large increases in overdose deaths in Rust Belt cities and towns concentrated in "Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maine. In Ohio, [whose state government filed a lawsuit in May] accusing five drug companies of abetting the opioid epidemic, we estimate overdose deaths increased by more than 25 percent in 2016."

Deaths from drug overdose are now higher than the number of car crash deaths at their peak in 1972; higher than the number of HIV deaths at their peak in 1995; and higher than the number of gun deaths at their peak in 1993.

And with 2 million Americans dependent on opioids and another 95 million having used prescription painkillers in the past year -- a larger number than used tobacco -- the death toll for 2017 is likely to be even worse, according to the Times.

In late June, figures from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality showed that for 2014 -- the latest year that data is available for -- there were 1.27 million emergency room visits or inpatient stays for opioid-related issues. According to The Washington Post, that figure reflects "a 64 percent increase for inpatient care and a 99 percent jump for emergency room treatment compared to figures from 2005. Their trajectory likely will keep climbing if the epidemic continues unabated."

And while media attention have focused largely on the devastating impact of the opioid crisis on white working-class and poor Americans, they have largely overlooked the toll on the lives of Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans -- who already suffer disproportionately from increased rates of drug addition and poverty.

The Washington Post reported in June that death rates have risen among people between the ages of 25 and 44 in virtually every racial and ethnic group and almost all states, largely as a result of drug overdoses and alcohol abuse. "After a century of decreases, the overall death rate for Americans in these prime years rose 8 percent between 2010 and 2015," the Post reported.

"Deaths from drug overdoses among whites are still more than double the rate for Blacks, and are rising rapidly," the paper noted. "But the data suggest that this is a contagion that will not recognize boundaries of race or ethnicity."

In Maryland, one of the states hit hardest by the crisis, opioid-related deaths have nearly quadrupled since 2010, and deaths from fentanyl increased 38-fold in the past decade. In 2016, Baltimore City -- which is 63 percent Black -- had 694 deaths from drug and alcohol-related overdoses in 2016, close to two per day, and almost twice the amount over the year before.

And, heartbreakingly, the opioid crisis is also increasingly impacting infants -- with the number of opioid-addicted newborns growing fivefold between 2003 and 2012, according to a recent New York Times article. Hospitals in rural areas often lack the neonatal intensive care units where addicted babies must be given doses of morphine. The Times noted that one transport team "picks up babies in severe withdrawal from 20 hospitals in rural towns across southern and eastern Kentucky." The infants are then taken to a pediatric hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit that has "nine rooms of bassinets with swaddled babies hooked up to monitors that beep at all hours."

"In 2015 and 2016," the Times noted, "this unit was over capacity almost half the time. Nearly 60 babies in withdrawal had to be diverted to other hospitals, because there were infants with even more pressing needs, like life support or breathing assistance."

"What it reflects is an out-of-control epidemic right now," Josh Sharfstein, director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at Johns Hopkins, said of the overall crisis. "It's affecting the economy. It's affecting the entire community. This is an absolute call to action for public health."

***

But that call is going unheeded -- in part, because there's profit to be made off this crisis.

The drive for profit among drug manufacturers has played a main role in fueling the crisis, as Big Pharma pushes cheap and addictive prescription painkillers. In late 2016, the Charleston Gazette-Mail detailed how, over the course of a six-year time span, wholesale drug companies sent 780 million painkilling pills to pharmacies in West Virginia -- more than 400 pills for every single person in the state. In Kermit, West Virginia -- population 392 -- nearly 9 million hydrocodone pills were shipped to a single pharmacy over a two-year period.

A report earlier this month from the US Department of Health and Human Services found widespread overprescribing of opioids within the Medicare prescription drug program for extended periods of time.

There's not only profit to be made producing these drugs, but -- in a twisted comment on capitalism -- in treating the victims of drug overdoses.

Kaleo, the company that produces an injectable version of Narcan called Evzio, is exploiting this to maximum effect.

Earlier this year, media reports pointed out that Kaleo had jacked up prices of a twin-pack of Evzio from $690 in 2014 to a staggering $4,500. With Evzio making up nearly 20 percent of the naloxone dispensed through retail outlets between 2015 and 2016, its mercenary decision to jack up prices "makes sense" from the logic of the market -- even if this means more people will die.

And it's not only the brand name versions of the drug that are spiking in price. The cost of generic injectable naloxone has also been on the rise. As Scientific American noted earlier this year, "A 10-milliliter vial sold by one of the dominant vendors costs close to $150, more than double its price from even a few years ago, and far beyond the production costs of the naloxone chemical, researchers say. The other common injectable, which comes in a smaller but more potent dose, costs closer to $40, still about double its 2009 cost."

***

While politicians like Picard are more than willing to talk about the "drain" of public resources on drug users, they do very little to question the roots of the crisis: The way cheap and powerful prescription opioids like fentanyl were deliberately marketed to economically depressed communities, many of them once the home of stable manufacturing jobs.

A rational approach to the opioid epidemic could include any number of effective strategies. On the treatment side, there should be a massive expansion of free, medically supervised drug-treatment programs and an overall expansion of public health care -- ultimately based on a single-payer model -- focused on both physical and mental health care.

One critical measure would be to prioritize the treatment of the kinds of workplace and other physical injuries that often lead to the initial use of opioids.

Other strategies would include an expansion of social services -- including things like free and low-cost child care; at-home care and emergency respite care for parents and other caregivers; prevention programs and other services for those at risk of becoming drug users; an expansion of unemployment benefits; and an expansion of job retraining programs and government jobs programs.

Yet none of this is on offer -- or even part of the discussion in mainstream politics. Instead, politicians, along with Trump's Justice Department, seem inclined to turn toward the same tried-and-failed strategy of previous versions of America's "war on drugs": throw more people in prison.

In June, for example, NPR reported that Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who previously had supported cutting back on some mandatory criminal penalties for those convicted of drug offenses, were preparing a bill that would "create tough new penalties for people caught with synthetic opioid drugs ... It would impose a 10-year maximum sentence on people caught selling them as a first offense. That would double if they do it again."

But in previous decades, mandatory-minimum sentencing did nothing to stop the flow of drugs into the US or the use of drugs overall. It only fueled a massive expansion of America's prison population and the destruction of entire communities, as African Americans in particular became disproportionately incarcerated under a racist system.

Today, the bill that Feinstein and Grassley are considering, according to Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance, repeats the same mistakes by "penalizing individuals who sell drugs at a low level inside the US, and so it's going to do nothing to deter and stop the supply of drugs."

"[W]e've been here before with this approach in terms of the war on drugs and ramping up sentences, and we know that escalating sentences ... does nothing to help the opioid epidemic," Collins told NPR. "In fact, it only serves to increase the prison population."

Categories: News

Anews podcast - episode 21, July 27, 2017

Anarchist News - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 14:59

https://podcast.anarchistnews.org/index.php/2017/07/24/anews-podcast-epi...

Welcome to the anews podcast. This is episode 20 for July 16th. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.
Editorial: On Labels
TOTW - Localism
A101 question: Free Will?
this podcast

This podcast is the effort of many people. This week this podcast was
* sound edited by Linn O'Mable
* written by jackie
* narrated by chisel and a friend
* Thanks to A! and ariel for their help with the topic of the week
* Contact us at podcast@anarchistnews.org
To learn more

Introduction to anarchism: http://anarchy101.org
Books and other anarchist material: http://littleblackcart.com
News and up to the minute commentary: https://anarchistnews.org

Tags: projectsfree willlabelslocalismcategory: Projects
Categories: News

The Biotech Industry Is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside

Truth Out - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 14:30

The British non-profit GMWatch recently revealed the agribusiness takeover of Conabia, the National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology of Argentina. Conabia is the GMO assessment body of Argentina. According to GMWatch, 26 of 34 its members were either agribusiness company employees or had major conflicts of interest.*

Packing a regulatory agency with conflicted individuals is one way to ensure speedy GMO approvals and Conabia has certainly delivered that. A much more subtle, but ultimately more powerful, way is to bake approval into the structure of the GMO assessment process itself. It is easier than you might think.

I recently attended the latest international conference of GMO regulators, called ISBGMO14, held in Guadalajara, Mexico (June 4-8, 2017). ISBGMO is run by the International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR). When I first went to this biennial series of conferences, in 2007, just one presentation in the whole four days was by a company. ISBR had some aspirations towards scientific independence from agribusiness.

I went for a second time in 2011, to the ISBGMO held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Company researchers and executives were frequent speakers and the conference had become an opportunity for agribusiness to present talking points and regulatory initiatives as if they had the blessing of science. This year, in Guadalajara, companies were now on the conference organising committee and even conferring conference travel scholarships from the podium. A former conference organiser and ISBR board member told me that the previous ISBGMO (St. Louis, USA, in 2015) had been almost entirely paid for by Monsanto.

Spreading the Industry Message

In Guadalajara, industry speakers were clearly working from a scripted list. That list translates as the key regulatory objectives of the biotech industry.

Prominent on that list was "data transportability." Data transportability is the idea that regulators from different jurisdictions, say India, or the EU, should accept identical biosafety applications. Implementation of data transportability would mean that although each country has unique ecosystems and species, applicants ought not to have to provide studies tailored to each. For example, when it comes to assessing effects on non-target organisms, for example of a GMO crop producing an insecticide, regulators in Australia should accept tests on European ladybird species or earthworms as showing that a GMO cotton can safely be grown there.

The appeal of data transportability for an applicant is clear enough -- less cost and less risk of their GMO failing a risk assessment. Not once did I hear mention of an obvious downside to data transportability. The fewer tests to which a novel GMO is subjected the less research there is to detect a significant problem if one exists.

A second standard corporate line was "need to know versus nice to know." In other words do not ask applicants for more data than they wish to supply. The downsides to this are identical to data transportability. Less data is less testing and less science.

Modernising Risk Assessment?

Another major theme of the meeting was 'modernization' of regulation. In this scheme the most 'advanced' nation was proposed to be Canada. Canada has adopted what it calls "trait-based GMO regulation." In trait-based regulation the method of development (i.e. whether the crop was genetically engineered or not) is considered irrelevant. The trait is the sole focus. So if a GMO crop contains an insecticide it is assessed for risk against non-target organisms. If a GMO improves flavour or nutrition then, since there is presumably no risk from flavours or nutrients, then the crop receives what amounts to a free pass.

The Canadian approach sounds harmless, but it has the crucial property that it hands control of risk assessment to the applicant, because under such a system everything depends on what the applicant chooses to call their trait. Imagine you were asked to review the safety of an aircraft, but the manufacturer wouldn't tell you if it was propeller-driven or a jet; likewise, if a submarine was diesel or nuclear powered.

The Canadian approach therefore, by just asking what the crop is supposed to do, effectively places outside of regulation most of the standard considerations of risk and hazard. Once upon a time, risk assessment was supposed to be about what a product is not supposed to do. For proposing non-regulation over regulation, Canadian biosafety officials were given more prominent speaking opportunities at ISBGMO14 than any other national regulator.

Tiered Risk Assessment

An equivalently unscientific innovation, which seems widely accepted, is called tiered risk assessment. Imagine a company presents to regulators an insect-resistant GMO crop. An obvious question arises. How is a regulator to know, since the crops produces an insecticide, if it will kill beneficial organisms such as the bees that feed on its flowers?

In tiered risk assessment this question is answered by feeding the purified GMO insecticide to a bee species. If no harm is observed the crop is assumed safe. No further tests are required. If the bees are harmed then a larger scale test, presumptively more realistic, is conducted. If harm is not observed the crop is assumed safe and no further tests are required. If harm is shown then an outdoor or larger-level test will be conducted.

Monsanto presented a lengthy exposition, in a plenary session, of the 'soundness' and 'logic' of this tiered approach. Tiered risk assessment has been the subject of little scientific debate (though see Lang et al., 2007), but the implications of the tiered approach are profound. It is an asymmetrical system in which passing any test leads to approval whereas failing that test does not result in disapproval.

Consider the comparison with pharmaceuticals. Currently, all pharmaceutical drugs must pass through three phases of clinical trials; first animal tests, then small scale human trials, then large scale human trials. Failure at any stage is considered terminal. Without wishing to give them any ideas, suppose the FDA were to replace this three-phase system with one under which approval in phase I (animal tests) allowed the developer to go straight to market. There would be, for good reason, an uproar, followed by an avalanche of dangerous medications on the market. But that is precisely the logic of tiered GMO testing.

Tiered testing is therefore a system in which failure is an unacceptable answer. In the scientific review paper that first proposed tiered risk assessment, there is no provision for rejecting the crop in the main figure, which diagrams the proposed decision tree (See Figure 1 of Romeis et al., 2008). Approvals are guaranteed. Agribusiness knows this perfectly well because many of the principal authors of Romeis et al are from the major seed and biotech companies.

The so-called logical innovations presented at ISBGMO14, such as data transportability, trait-based regulation, and tiered risk assessment, are thus intended as regulatory bypasses. They make it all but impossible for a regulator to turn down a GMO application, or even to collect sufficient information. No wonder the biotech industry likes to refer to risk assessment procedures as approval systems.

Given the lack of objection to these approaches at ISBGMO14, the biotech industry ought now to feel confident that the regulation of biotechnology is largely in their hands, but still it wants more.

In the coming years, an upsurge is expected in the GMO pipeline as new applications and new approaches become possible. This pipeline is predicted to include GMO algae, animal biotechnology, gene drives, and so forth. Many of these opportunities the industry knows will be controversial. A pacified regulatory environment is for them a necessity before that can happen.

This is more than a shame. When a comprehensive evaluation of the weaknesses and inherent limitations of scientific risk assessment is urgently needed to cope with these challenges, the chemical and biotech industries are forcing those assessment systems in the opposite direction.

References:

Romeis, Jörg; Bartsch, Detlef; Bigler, Franz; Candolfi, Marco P; Gielkens, Marco M C; et al. (2008) Assessment of risk of insect-resistant transgenic crops to nontarget arthropods. Nature Biotechnology; 26: 203-8.

Andreas Lang, Éva Lauber & Béla Darvas (2007) Early-tier tests insufficient for GMO risk assessment. Nature Biotechnology 25: 35 – 36
doi:10.1038/nbt0107-35

*Correction. An earlier version of this article credited the Spanish non-profit Grain. Grain reprinted the investigation only.

Categories: News

'Russian situation is completely overblown' - new WH communications director

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 06:49

'Russian situation is completely overblown' - new WH communications director | 23 July 2017 | The scandal around the US officials allegedly colluding with the Russian government has been "overblown" and serves to "to take the president off his agenda," Donald Trump's new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci has said ...

Categories: News

Death toll in suspected Texas human smuggling case rises to nine

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 06:43

Death toll in suspected Texas human smuggling case rises to nine | 23 July 2017 | At least nine men were found dead on Sunday alongside dozens of people discovered inside a sweltering tractor trailer parked at a Walmart store in San Antonio, Texas, in what authorities called a case of "ruthless" human trafficking ...

Categories: News

TOTW: Sign of the Times

Anarchist News - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 06:36

If the latest controversies have taught us anything it is that the newest generation of anarchists (and anarchist-adjacent) deal with political disagreements differently than we have in the past. The story is likely apocryphal but it is said that when Johann Most (German anarchist who immigrated to the US in 1882 to join the labor movement here!) talked shit (generally implying that the Berkman assassination attempt against Frick was not what was claimed by Goldman) Emma whipped him across the face.

There was a time in past decades where social exclusion was the mechanism by which disagreements were resolved. Green did not socially participate in red functions (and visa versa of course) and some functions embraced all. This big tent never really covered everyone but was a conceit generally shared.

The Internet change this of course. It was possible to fragment into smaller and smaller political persuasions and still find a crowd. It was also possible to go across the full arc of a anarchist life (from baby anarchist to old time jaded) and never meet another real living anarchist in meat space.

Largely this has meant that political disagreements happen less. We aren't forced to share the same infoshop, or town, and since we can find a crowd we appreciate we don't necessarily associate with those we disagree with. Or if we do, our disagreements rarely rise to the level of being public because, what's the use? This placid scenario runs right into the other political phenomena of our time, call out culture, where fucked up behavior has become the primary concern of a new class of political operative.

Where does this new interpretive vision of anarchist political disagreement leave us? Does it represent a positive term because individual personalities and relationships no longer matter because only ideas and actions matter? Or does it represent a new era where context is trumped by... something else? Rather than talking about whether it is good or bad our hope is to talk about how information technologies have changed how we relate to each other and how we practice our politics.

Tags: societydisagreementspoliticscategory: Other
Categories: News

Minneapolis Police Chief Resigns Over the Cop Shooting of Unarmed Woman. Will the Mayor Be Next?

Truth Out - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 04:00

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau has resigned amid growing protests over the police killing of unarmed Australian woman Justine Ruszczyk. Many residents are now calling for the resignation of the mayor, Betsy Hodges, saying the killing of Ruszczyk, which came after she called 911 twice to report a possible sexual assault near her home, shows an institutional problem with the city's police. We speak to Samantha Pree-Stinson, an organizer with the Twin Cities movement to end police killing and police brutality and a Green Party candidate for City Council in Minneapolis.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today in Minneapolis, where fallout continues following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Australian woman. Transcripts reveal 40-year-old resident Justine Ruszczyk called 911 twice to report a possible sexual assault outside her home a week ago, before she was shot dead by an officer responding to the emergency calls. The city's beleaguered police chief, Janee Harteau, resigned Friday at the request of the mayor amid growing calls by activists. This is Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.

MAYOR BETSY HODGES: As far as we have come, Chief Harteau is not in a position to lead us further. And from the many conversations I've had with people around our city, especially this week, I know that some in Minneapolis have lost confidence in police leadership. For us to continue to transform policing and community trust in policing, both the chief and I concluded we need new leadership at MPD. In conversation with the chief today, she and I agreed that she would step aside to make way for new leadership. And I asked Chief Harteau for her resignation. She tendered it, and I have accepted it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, officer Mohamed Noor was startled by a loud sound shortly before Ruszczyk approached his police cruiser. Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot her through the open driver's-side window of the vehicle. Noor has apologized to the family of Justine Ruszczyk, who often went by her fiancé's last name, Damond. Noor has declined to speak with investigators and has hired an attorney.

AMY GOODMAN: The killing came just weeks after a suburban Twin Cities police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted on manslaughter charges of shooting African-American motorist Philando Castile in 2016. During the mayor's announcement, anti-police violence activists stormed the news conference, demanding Hodges also step down. They said her leadership as mayor of Minneapolis was ineffective and that the Minneapolis Police Department had terrorized them enough.

PROTESTER 1: We're asking for your prompt resignation. We don't want you as our mayor of Minneapolis anymore. We're asking that you take your staff with you. We don't want you to appoint anybody anymore. Your leadership has been very ineffective. And if you don't remove yourself, we're going to put somebody in place to remove you. We do not want you as the mayor of Minneapolis ever again. We would like for you to move out of our city. Your police department has terrorized us enough!

PROTESTER 2: The former chief wasn't doing her job, but we understand it's beyond the chief, that the problem is institutional, right? If it was not institutional, then those cameras would have been -- those body cameras would have been on the police the other day.

AMY GOODMAN: Officer Noor and his partner have been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated. Noor is the first Somali-American officer in his precinct.

For more, we're joined by two guests. Samantha Pree-Stinson is an organizer with the Twin Cities movement to end police killing and police brutality. She's a Green Party candidate for City Council in Minneapolis. And Phil Stinson -- no relation -- is a criminologist and associate professor at Criminal Justice Program at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Samantha Pree-Stinson, can you start off by just explaining when this happened and what you understand took place? It is a very surprising story, as this woman thinks she's hearing a rape outside. She calls the police, waits another couple of minutes -- they don't come -- calls again. When they come, it's like what? One and 1:30 in the morning. She comes out in her pajamas to speak to the police, comes to the driver's side of the police cruiser. And she is immediately shot in the abdomen by Mohamed Noor, the police officer in the passenger seat, shooting across and in front of his police partner. This is apparently what has been said, because they had video cam on them, each officer, but they didn't turn it on. Can you take it from there, and what has been the response and why we don't know more?

SAMANTHA PREE-STINSON: Well, for one thing, we don't know more, because there's no visual evidence. And as you stated, the officer has chosen not to speak, and to execute his constitutional right not to. The BCA, who's investigating it, cannot force him to speak. And the officer who was in the driver's side, you know, spoke very little about what he knew.

But what we have -- within just the last couple of days, what we have come to know is that, actually, some residents have come forward that did see something. What we saw -- what they saw, we still don't know. And in addition to that, the report of the gentleman on the bicycle, who was reported to have been in the alley at the time of the incident, also has come forward. And we've also learned that a citizen did record some video. But those details, other -- outside of that, other details have not developed yet at this point.

And I do find it very interesting, the speed of the information that has come out, which we've never seen anything like this before in Minneapolis with previous cases, to include Philando Castile. And now, all of the sudden, now that there is video that has surfaced and witnesses that have stepped forward, we've stopped hearing anything. So it's very interesting and telling, and it has residents very heightened. And a historic movement has started here, boots on the ground in Minneapolis, as a result, starting from the verdict of Philando Castile, moving forward to what we've seen with Justine Damond.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Phil Stinson, what about this issue -- oh, I'm sorry, well, Samantha, I wanted to ask you, in terms of the protests that have developed, there were some who were claiming initially that the Black Lives Matter movement would not get involved in this particular case, since it was the death of a white woman at the hands of a police officer, but that's been proven to be false. Could you talk about that, as well?

SAMANTHA PREE-STINSON: Yes, that's correct. So, Black Lives Matter's Twin Cities has been involved. And the reason why is this. The reason why the Black Lives Matter organization started, to begin with, was because we know that black lives are not treated as -- we know that they matter, but they're not treated as if they are. And we have factual evidence to prove where that's been happening, time and time again, where black lives have been treated as secondary. But that's just the reason for why the group formed. Their overall -- their overall reason for existing, as far as the work that they do, pertains to police and justice, as far as killings and brutality, overall, regardless of the identity of the victims. So, it made perfect sense for us, who have worked with the group and are familiar here locally with the -- and familiar with the work that they did, that they would get involved and that they did show up, so that that wasn't surprising to me.

But the other thing is that we have had an issue with reporting locally, which does feed in nationally, as well, because with this movement, there are rallies that happened before the actual marches occur. And at these rallies, we have local speakers -- some are faith-based, some are with organizations, some are candidates -- that come together to bring the community together, so that everybody can have a chance to speak and share their voice and bring us together as a community and heal, before we start these protests or these marches. So, that's another piece that is usually never covered.

And then, the case of the recent one that occurred over this last Friday, when we got to City Hall, marching from the park to City Hall, we found that the doors were locked. And that was just unacceptable, that a -- City Hall is a public building that our public dollars, our tax dollars, pay for, to include the mayor's salary, to include that microphone that she made her statement on. So, for her to lock the public out of a public conference was unacceptable. It was completely unacceptable. But we were able to strategically put our minds together, and we were able to get into City Hall. And then you saw what happened as a result, where the demands were placed upon the mayor that not only was the symbolic resignation of the chief not enough, but we expect for her to go, as well, come November 7th, when we have our election.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to the statement by Minnesota State Representative Ilhan Omar. She's the country's first Somali-American Muslim legislator. Again, Mohamed Noor is the first Somali-American police officer, and he is the man that shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk. The state representative, Omar, writes, "The idealist in me continues to be surprised, but I know this incident is another result of excessive force and violence-based training for supposed peace officers. ... Changing the body camera policy won't solve the inherent problem. The current officer training program indoctrinates individuals of all races into a system that teaches them to act first, think later, and justify with fear. It's time we explore solutions beyond improved training and cameras to capture evidence. We need to look at a complete shift in the culture of the police department, away from the use of lethal force and deadly weapons." That, again, is the commentary of the Minnesota state representative, Ilhan Omar, the country's first Somali-American elected state official. And I wanted to go back to our guest, Samantha Pree-Stinson, to ask your response to what she said.

SAMANTHA PREE-STINSON: Well, absolutely. What people need to remember is, they need to go back in history and realize that it is law enforcement. They were never meant to be peacekeepers. They were meant -- if you go all the way back to the beginning of when law enforcement started, their purpose was to keep the slaves on the plantation. They were meant to control and keep people in line, rank and file, just as we see today with our Minneapolis police force. That hasn't changed. This is a militarized culture. I, myself, am a veteran. It's very similar to what happens in basic training. You are no longer an individual. You are part of a collective in a group. And you act the same, you think the same, you think as a unit. And if anybody, you know, does their own thing, there are reprimands, there are repercussions for that. Our police department is similar in that mindset, in that that is the culture of policing. So, simply changing the culture of policing, that is not even going to be good enough, because the existence and the reason for why we have law enforcement, again, is to keep people in line and to control people and to enforce the law.

But the problem with that is that there is zero accountability. And even within the law, the way that it is written, the beginning of the law sounds just fine to make you believe that there is some accountability there. However, they have included the word "fear." And fear is something that a body cam cannot capture. That is subjective. That is something that is personal that you feel. So it's very hard to prove, regardless of what you see on a camera, that an officer didn't feel fear.

So we have to start with changing the law. We have to change the entire way that we look at what our community needs. Do we need law enforcement in the way that it's been driven into our heads to believe that we need it? And the answer is no. So, all answers need to be on the table. We need to have all voices at the table in this. This isn't about being left or right. This is about moving forward. So we need to have all solutions at the table. They should all be valid. They should all be relevant and be looked into further, as far as how they can be applied to our communities to best serve our residents and keep us safe and keep our communities healthy and thriving.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Samantha Pree-Stinson, I wanted to ask you about Mayor Hodges. She was elected four years ago at the head of a liberal-progressive coalition. There were a lot of hopes for her mayoralty. But then she came under increasing attack from the police union, as well. And then, after the Philando Castile tragedy, she asked for a Justice Department investigation. What's gone wrong with Betsy Hodges? And as you mentioned, she's up for re-election in November.

SAMANTHA PREE-STINSON: Mm-hmm. Well, there's been a lot of scrutiny of Betsy and people thinking that -- or Mayor Hodges, that this is an issue of being a woman. But the fact of the matter is, is that leadership doesn't have a gender. You're either -- you're either a good leader or a bad leader, or you're a leader who is moving forward or a leader who is inept. And we've seen multiple examples of ineptitude, not only with Mayor Hodges, but within City Council as a whole.

There's a lack of accountability there, the fact that they don't listen to the community. The issue that happened at the Fourth Precinct was a result of communities coming together, different organizations, residents coming together to have their voices amplified, to bring up things that they know, as being residents, as being people of color, being people who are oppressed. And that lack of just -- just listening, that's all that needed to be done, was to listen and bring those voices to the table. But instead, it was escalated, really, for no reason. A DOJ investigation resulted. The DOJ report is back and has been back for seven months. We have seen little to no movement since that DOJ report came out to address what they found was going well and what wasn't going so well. And what was discovered is that one of the main issues is that we have a communication breakdown.

And what people need to realize about Minneapolis is that we have three separate units of police that answer to different authorities. We have our Metro Transit police, who answers to the Met Council. The Met Council is appointed by Governor Dayton. We have our Minneapolis Police Department, who essentially answers to city leadership, the mayor and the council. And then you have the parks police, which is a separate entity that operates under the parks board, to a certain extent, which is a separate entity that -- of elected officials that do not answer to city leadership. So you have three separate -- and that doesn't even count the sheriff, the Hennepin County. So you have three separate authorities that are not communicating. There is no intergovernmental communication.

We have not seen any prioritization as far as what was seen in the DOJ report and listening to our communities, those of color and just as, in general, our residents in our community. And as a result, we see exactly what has happened. There's been more than enough opportunities for us to step up to the plate and acknowledge the fact that Minneapolis is the third worst metro in this nation for people of color. And nobody wants to own that metric, prioritize it into the work that we need to do to this city. And speaking about progressiveness, the favorite quote for people that claim to be progressive is to quote the late, great Paul Wellstone in talking about, you know, "people do better when we all do better." Well, if that's the case, then we should definitely be prioritizing this diversity metric of being the third worst metro, because if that is true, when we recognize that this is a true fact, that we're the third worst metro, and we prioritize it to change these needs for our city and actually invest in every corner of our city and not just the affluent ones, we will all be doing inherently better.

So we have to stop with the symbolic changes. And we have to start not trimming the leaves off the plant, but we have to get to the root of it. We have to rip it out. We have to put in new seeds, and we have to cultivate it. And that starts with listening and with our communities and about setting real priorities about the race issues that we have in this city and the double standards, such as we see with Noor.

AMY GOODMAN: Samantha Pree-Stinson, we want to thank you for being with us, organizer with the Twin Cities movement to end police killing and police brutality, Green Party candidate for the City Council in Minneapolis.

 

Categories: News

"A Forgotten Crisis": Yemen's Aid Workers Speak Out About the World's Worst Humanitarian Disaster

Truth Out - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 04:00

"An absolute shame on humanity." That's how the international aid organization CARE is describing the deepening humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The number of cholera cases in Yemen has now topped 368,000, with 1,828 deaths. The World Health Organization estimates some 5,000 Yemenis are falling sick daily -- and Oxfam projects the number of suspected cases of cholera could rise to more than 600,000, making the epidemic "the largest ever recorded in any country in a single year since records began." We speak to Shabia Mantoo, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, in Yemen, as well as Kjetil Østnor, Oxfam's regional manager for the Middle East and Yemen.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

There's an Effort Around the Country to Curtail People's Fundamental First Amendment Rights

Truth Out - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 04:00

Janine Jackson interviewed Mara Verheyden-Hilliard about the right to protest for the July 14, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

MP3 Link

Janine Jackson: A recent popular op-ed called on those engaged in resisting the Trump administration to stop counting so much on lawyers. "The fate of the nation cannot be left in the hands of the courts," the piece, written by a lawyer, argued, and that's solid advice. Popular action is what historically has moved the country forward.

But when people do go into the street and are arrested, what then? When they put their bodies on the line and the state creates a new law to criminalize that resistance, what then? Like it or not, the law is still one of the bigger tools in the box for Americans. So what does and doesn't it do for us in the present moment?

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard is an activist and attorney. She's co-founder and executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard: Thank you for having me.

Well, I'd like to start, if we could, with an update on the J-20, those arrested in inauguration protests in DC, who are facing what I've heard called unprecedented charges for demonstrators, felony charges that could lead to 75, 80 years in prison. One of those still facing charges is journalist Aaron Cantú, now at the Santa Fe Reporter, who has written for FAIR. We talked about the case in January. What should we know now about this ongoing story?

This case is really of extraordinary proportions, when you look at what the government is doing to people who are engaged in protests on the first day that Trump took office. And it's really in its own context significant, too, because of the major shift in policing in Washington, DC, which we believe is intended to send a signal.

What's happened now is more than 200 people were swept up in a dragnet arrest by the police, and this occurred after the police had followed the demonstration for, by their own account, approximately half an hour, while there were some people who broke windows, only a handful of people. And rather than going in and arresting the people for whom they had probable cause to arrest, the police waited that arbitrary time, tracked and detained 200 people. And so they swept up demonstrators, passers-by, journalists, anyone who's in proximity, anyone who is chanting and protesting.

And then they undertook this mass prosecution with the United States Attorney's Office here in the District of Columbia, in which people are being threatened with, as you've mentioned, jail time that is decades and decades long, really a lifetime of jail time, with these felony charges. They are charging people en masse with crimes that may have happened, in terms of property damage, but charging everyone with crimes without particularized probable cause, without being able to point to a person and say, you committed this act and so we're charging you for this act. They're charging everyone in the vicinity for being in proximity.

This is extremely dangerous; it sets the stage that for any demonstration, if anyone commits a criminal act, an act of property damage, whether that be a protestor or, frankly, a police agent provocateur, the police can now use this as license, or they wish to, to sweep up everyone else around them.

This is what we talked about before. It's not a crime, now, is it, to be in proximity to other people who break the law in conjunction with First Amendment activities?

Of course it's not, and it cannot be. And the First Amendment has always stood for that, in fact, you cannot criminalize a person for the acts of another. And particularly in the context of the First Amendment, when it's an issue where the connection is that there may be a sympathy of political views, one cannot do that. There are cases dating back, NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware and others, the courts said you have to act with precision. You cannot say that just because people have a similar point of view, or may have similar political goals, that those who carry out illegal acts or acts of violence in pursuit of those goals, that those acts can be attributed to the others who do not.

Right. These charges, at the level they're at, it feels new, but we know that the effort to repress First Amendment expression is not new. The Supreme Court last month rejected a First Amendment case that dates from years back, Garcia v. Bloomberg. Can you tell us about that and how it relates?

The Garcia v. Bloomberg case comes from the Occupy demonstration of 2011, when 700 people were peacefully marching, compliant with police orders, there was no violence, and as people marched, the police escorted the march. The police themselves closed the Brooklyn Bridge roadway to vehicular traffic. The police and police commanders themselves opened up the roadway to pedestrian traffic. It is the police and police commanders who led the demonstrators onto the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge, and once those demonstrators had flowed and followed behind the lead of the police, the police stopped the march, trapped them from behind, mass-arrested 700 people.

When we litigated this case, we won at the District Court level, we won at the Second Circuit, in fact. And then Mayor de Blasio, who had taken office, frankly, running on an Occupy ticket, had the court reevaluate the ruling, and the court, in an extraordinary measure, reversed itself. And we took this case up to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court just last month determined that they would not hear it.

Obviously, lots of folks are taking their lead from this, and kind of joining on this bandwagon. We have a spate of anti-protest legislation around the country, even UN experts are issuing alarmed statements now. Some 20 states have passed or tried to pass laws allowing protesters to be charged with conspiracy, increasing penalties for blocking streets, even protecting drivers who run protesters over, banning masks and hoodies…. I mean, is anyone really confused that the intent of these rules is to quash dissent, and doesn't that thinly veiled intent matter?

It's clear that there is an effort around the country to try, through legal means -- although we would consider illegal means -- to curtail people's fundamental First Amendment rights to gather together in the streets, to be able to speak out in unified action.

I do think, as much as we're seeing these kinds of restrictions imposed and these rulings, that at the same time it can obviously have a chilling effect on people, the reality is that people do always come out and people will continue to come out. And while this may be intended to have a chilling effect, it is really crucial that people stand up and speak out for what they believe in. And I do think the reason that we're seeing these is because there is a growing recognition that there really is this fire of people, these embers burning, where we keep seeing people come up and demonstrating for what they believe in. We're seeing so many more people entering political life, even since the election of Donald Trump. People are taking to the streets, protesting, who never protested before.

So while we're faced with what is I think overt repression, both in terms of these felony prosecutions, these state laws, these court rulings, we also are faced with the fact that there are millions of people who are engaging in political protest and political organizing who have never done so before, and that's a force that really can't be stopped.

We've been speaking with Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. Find them online at JusticeOnline.org. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, thank you very much for joining us today on CounterSpin.

Thank you for having me.

Categories: News

It's (Loan) Shark Week: Families Are Biting Back

Truth Out - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 04:00

 ismagilov / Getty Images)(Photo: Ismagilov / Getty Images)

It's Shark Week, but the most dangerous predators this year aren't on TV or at the beaches -- they are in Washington DC, where they are menacing families with the help of their chums in Congress.

From payday loan sharks to Wall Street bottom-feeders, financial predators of all shapes and sizes are descending on our capital to take a bite out of financial protections.

Over the past six months, we've seen these sharks swarm in a feeding frenzy on our rights. GOP-backed Trumpcare wants to destroy Medicare and Medicaid, and take health care away from millions of Americans.

The Trump administration's proposed budget slashes funds for public housing, food assistance and protecting the environment.

Newly appointed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is refusing to to forgive loans to students defrauded by for-profit colleges, while seeking to funnel millions of dollars into for-profit charter schools.

On issue after issue, the GOP, the president and his team prioritize corporate tax breaks and tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent.

Sharks Attack the CFPB

In their latest attack on everyday people, Trump's corporate sharks have set their sights on our financial system's lifeguard: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

After Wall Street speculation nearly sank our economy in 2008, Congress created the CFPB to stand up for consumers and give them a voice -- and some equal footing -- in dealing with banks and lenders.

The CFPB is a lifeguard for families making financial decisions. The CFPB is there when a shark gets us in their jaws through trickery or fraud -- coming to the rescue and a chance for justice.

It was the CFPB that uncovered Wells Fargo's massive effort to defraud consumers by opening fake accounts. Since it began, the CFPB has returned $11.8 billion to more than 29 million consumers defrauded by big banks and financial companies.

The CFPB rescues shark-attack victims; they issue rules that protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices. Rules created by the bureau have prevented foreclosures, reduced racial discrimination in auto lending and stopped abusive debt collection practices.

Last year, the CFPB began working on a rule to rein in the worst abuses of the payday loan sharks, an industry that traps more than 12 million Americans in a cycle of debt and desperation every year and strips billions of dollars from local communities. People's Action members submitted more than 100,000 comments in support of a strong rule to the CFPB.

Last week, the CFPB issued a rule that would stop banks and credit card companies from forcing consumers into arbitration, a process rigged in favor of the big banks. Just hours after the CFPB issued its arbitration rule to ensure that consumers who are wronged can go to court to get justice, top Senate Republicans announced an effort to kill the rule.

Whose CHOICE?

In May, Texas Representative Jeb Hensarling, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced the CHOICE Act, a Wall Street dream-come-true. The CHOICE Act would eliminate the CFPB's ability to examine banks, credit reporting agencies, debt collectors and lenders to ensure they are following the law.

CHOICE would stop the CFPB's rule on payday lending before it's even issued. It would repeal the requirement that investment advisers act in the best interest of their clients, and allow banks to charge more for debit cards.

The same sharks that caused a worldwide financial crisis are circling again. They are determined to dismantle as many regulations and protections as they can.

They think they can take the lifeguard off the beach and go back to soaking working families. Consumer advocates, faith leaders and everyday people are standing up and pushing back. We are demanding that our government stand up for families and our financial future.

We are putting the Wall Street sharks on notice: This Shark Week, we are biting back.

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Categories: News

What Is Behind the Renegotiation of NAFTA? Trumpism and the New Global Economy

Truth Out - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 04:00

 Scott Olson / Getty Images) President Trump leaves the stage following a rally on June 21, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Contrary to Trump's public statements, the likely reason behind his push for a new NAFTA is to expand globalization by breaking down national barriers to digital trade, which did not exist in 1994 but is now at the cutting-edge of the global economy. Labor regulations, intellectual property rights and regulatory practices would all be up for renegotiation under a new NAFTA.

 Scott Olson / Getty Images) President Trump leaves the stage following a rally on June 21, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

The Trump administration's decision to renegotiate with Mexico the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been interpreted by most observers as the opening salvos of a new wave of US protectionism. But Trump's public discourse should not be confused with the essence of his government's economic program and likely trade policies. A better explanation for the renegotiation, which may begin as early as mid-August, is to be sought in the transformation of the US and the global economy in the years since NAFTA went into effect in 1994.

The North American economic region is part of a globally integrated production and financial system. Even if they were so motivated, US political and economic elites could not, without utterly disrupting and destabilizing the country, disentangle the United States (or the North American region) from the vast network of chains of subcontracting and outsourcing that characterize the global economy. Trump and his billionaire cabinet members are part of the transnational capitalist class. The Trump family's business empire spans the globe, including factories in Mexico that take advantage of cheap labor and export back to the United States, thanks to the provisions of NAFTA.

Trump railed against NAFTA during his electoral campaign as part of his strategy of garnering a base of support among sectors of the US working class who face heightened insecurity and downward mobility as a result of capitalist globalization. No viable candidate can hope to be elected without putting forward a populist message. Hillary Clinton was forced as well during the campaign to come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Trump jettisoned upon taking office, just as Obama lashed out against globalization and its devastating effects on working people when he first ran for the presidency.

But beyond public discourse, there is nothing populist in the policies that the Trump government has so far put forth. Trumponomics involves deregulation, slashing social spending, dismantling of what remains of the welfare state, privatization, tax breaks to corporations and the rich, and an expansion of state subsidies to capital -- in short, neoliberalism on steroids. The US political elite are deeply divided and mired by infighting, but businessmen and investors are, for the most part, elated with Trump's neoliberal program, as indicated in the steep rise of stock prices in the months following his election.

From the Industrial to the Digital Economy

When NAFTA was negotiated in the early 1990s, the largest US-based companies were automotive, appliances and machine tools, and manufacturing still drove the US economy. At the time that NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the World Trade Organization (WTO) did not even exist, few people used the internet, and although computers were just coming into widespread use, there was as yet no such thing as a digital economy. The principal objective of free trade negotiations at the time was to facilitate the establishment of a globalized system of production by lifting restrictions that national governments had placed on the cross-border movement of goods. This was achieved by NAFTA, along with the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995. An astonishing 400 trade agreements were negotiated around the world from 1995 to 2016.

But since NAFTA and the WTO went into effect, the global economy has continued to experience development and transformation. In particular, the transnationalization of services and the rise of the so-called digital/data economy -- including communications, informatics, digital and platform technology, e-commerce, financial services, professional and technical work, and a host of other intangible products, such as film and music, that require intellectual property protections -- have moved to the center of the global capitalist agenda. In fact, worldwide growth of trade in services has outstripped by far that of goods in the last quarter century. By 2017, services accounted for some 70 percent of the total gross world product.

On the one hand, the United States has led the way in the development of the digital economy, and services account now for most growth in exports. The United States registered a deficit of $750 billion in 2016 in trade in goods with the rest of the world, but it ran a $250 billion surplus in services that same year. In 2016, the United States ran a $64 billion deficit with Mexico in trade in goods, yet according to the office of the United States Trade Representative, it ran a nearly $7 billion services trade surplus that year. On the other hand, Mexico is rapidly transitioning into the digital economy. Mexican IT services surpassed $20 billion in 2016 and are expected to increase 15 percent year on year. High-tech Mexican entrepreneurs now boast of the rise of silicon valleys in Mexico City and Guadalajara, the country's two largest cities.

NAFTA did not include provisions related to this digital trade. In addition, it did not include state-owned enterprises and the Mexican energy sector, nor did it oblige Mexico to revise its labor code or abandon a number of regulatory practices. Although the Mexican government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has, for the first time since the country nationalized oil in 1938, allowed foreign energy companies to participate in exploration and production, the energy sector still remains (for the most part) national and owned by the state. And successive neoliberal governments in Mexico have made limited headway in their efforts to revise the labor code and lift regulations on the hiring and firing of workers in order to make labor more easily exploitable.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, who will represent the United States in the NAFTA renegotiation, was explicit in declaring that the purpose of the renegotiation is to "modernize" and "update" the agreement. "NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago," he said, "and while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not." In particular, he said "digital trade" had barely begun when the agreement took effect. New provisions were needed to address this digital trade, as well as intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises and labor regulations. Far from protectionism, by renegotiating NAFTA and other aspects of the global trade regime, the United States is acting to break down national barriers to service and digital trade that is now at the cutting-edge of the global economy; that is, it is promoting the next generation of globalization.

Why the Nationalist, Populist and Protectionist Rhetoric?

Attempting to explain trade, economics and international relations from an outdated nation-state framework of analysis does more to obscure than to elucidate the dynamics of the new global capitalism. While it is true that, putting aside trade in services, the United States has an enormous trade deficit with Mexico (as well as with China and many other countries), the fact is that exports that go from Mexican to US territory are not "Mexican" exports. They are the exports by hundreds of transnational corporations from the United States and from all over the world, that operate in Mexican territory and that move their products through the vast networks of the global economy. The imports of goods into the United States from Mexico are transnational corporate exports moving from one national territory to another. National trade statistics conceal the transnational essence of the new global economy, and with it, the transnational class relations behind much contemporary international political dynamics.

So why has Trump railed out against Mexico through a discourse that is nationalist, populist and protectionist, not to mention deeply racist? To answer this, we need to identify a fundamental contradiction in global capitalism: Economic globalization takes place within a system of political authority based in the nation-state. This contradiction generates a host of dilemmas for states and the transnational elite. Governments gain some of their legitimacy by achieving growth, generating employment and prosperity. Yet, in the age of capitalist globalization, governments are dependent on attracting transnational corporate investment to the national territory, which requires providing capital with all the incentives associated with neoliberalism -- downward pressure on wages, deregulation, austerity, and on so -- that aggravate inequality, impoverishment and insecurity for the working classes.

To say this in academic terms, nation-states face a contradiction between the need to promote transnational capital accumulation in their territories and the need to achieve political legitimacy. Governments around the world have been experiencing spiraling crises of legitimacy in the face of the unprecedented inequalities and hardships imposed on the working classes by globalization. This situation generates bewildering and seemingly contradictory politics.

Trumpism is a far-right response to the crisis of legitimacy that rests on a populist and nationalist message aimed in particular at those sectors of the US working class that face increasingly precarious work and social conditions. Trump's imperial bravado and racist discourse, in part predicated on whipping up anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant sentiment, is an appeal to these sectors to channel their fear and insecurity towards a racist consciousness of their condition.

At the same time, therefore, Trump's Mexico agenda cannot be separated from its escalation of the war against immigrants, particularly from Mexico and Central America, inside the United States. The criminalization of immigrants, a sharp increase in raids and detentions and "build the wall" rhetoric are part of a larger strategy to disarticulate the political organization and resistance that has taken place among immigrant communities in recent years. It is not surprising that the recent wave of detentions and deportation of immigrants from Mexico and Central America have targeted labor and community activists among the undocumented immigrant community.

The US economy and the transnational capitalist class depend on the exploitation of an immigrant workforce that is held in labor peonage due to its lack of citizenship rights.

But the US economy and the transnational capitalist class depend on the exploitation of an immigrant workforce that is held in labor peonage due to its lack of citizenship rights. US rulers have been exploring ways to replace the current system of super-exploitation of undocumented immigrant labor with a mass "guest worker program" that would be more efficient in combining super-exploitation with super control. Indeed, while the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrant workers in California has escalated in recent years, the use of "guest workers" in that state's $47 billion agricultural industry increased by 500 percent from 2011 to 2017.

All of this is not to say that Trump's populist, nationalist and protectionist discourse should be taken lightly. This discourse is tinged with a vicious racism, has inspired a neo-fascist mobilization of extreme right groups in US civil society and has escalated international tensions. But we would do better to see Trumpism as a highly contradictory and unstable far-right response to the crisis of global capitalism than a trenchant policy of protectionism and populism.

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