Vermont Nurses on Strike Demanding Hospital Put Patients Over Profits

Truth Out - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 14:52

Ranked 47th for pay in the nation. High turnover, stagnant wages, and chronic staffing shortages—sound familiar?

You’d be forgiven for thinking these figures refer to the working conditions of West Virginia teachers, or those in any of the red states that erupted in strikes during this spring’s teacher rebellion. But, in fact, these figures describe the daily realities confronting nurses in none other than the widely-hailed progressive state of Vermont.

On Thursday, 1,800 nurses and 300 health professionals at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) began a two-day strike to demand more for themselves and their patients. At the center of the strike are issues related to safe staffing, competitive pay and calls for a hospital-wide $15 minimum wage.

One of the central demands is for safe-staffing ratios, which the union representing the nurses, the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (VFNHP), sees as intimately connected to workers’ pay. The hospital ranks among the lowest for pay in a state that ranks 47th in the nation for nurses’ wages, adjusted for cost of living. The longest-serving nurses at the hospital have not received a pay increase in nine years.

The VFNHP reports that low wages contribute directly to staffing issues because the hospital cannot recruit and retain staff. The UVMMC, a level one trauma center and the second largest employer in the state, routinely has vacancies of between 130 and 180 positions. To compensate for these shortages, the hospital spends exorbitant sums of money to employ traveling nurses for 13-week stints. The union claims that in some cases the hospital gives scheduling preferences to these traveling nurses.

In addition to low wages, the UVMMC employs lean production methods that put both nurses and patients at risk. The union claims that the hospital has frequent shortages of support staff, including nurses’ aides and orderlies. According to Tristin Adie, a nurse practitioner and member of the bargaining committee, nurses in the rehabilitation unit routinely do laundry for up to an hour a day, while nurses in the oncology unit are consistently tasked with billing and coding duties, and nurses across the board are forced to regularly clean rooms and accompany patients to far off places in the building. Adie says that such practices directly contribute to an unsafe working environment: nurses cannot adequately care for patients when they are forced to do the work of support staff in addition to their primary duties.

Representatives for the UVMMC did not return a request for comment.

Striking nurses say that UVMMC management’s cutting of corners betrays the priorities of a hospital management more committed to profits than patients. The nonprofit hospital experienced financial problems after a former CEO’s fraud scandal and the recession, which it largely climbed out of by freezing wages in order to have more cash on hand, thereby increasing its bond rating. Since then, UVMMC has undergone a period of rapid expansion—buying out four hospitals and smaller clinics in New York and Vermont, and, in the process, becoming the single largest employer in the region.

UVMMC also has plans to begin construction on a new building for the Burlington hospital that would cost $187.7 million but has not released any information about how they plan to staff the new facility. Meanwhile, the hospital provides lavish salaries for its executives.

As Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders noted in a July 6 press conference in support of the nurses, “I find it really hard to believe that the hospital has enough money to pay nearly $11 million to 15 administrators, including more than $2 million to the CEO (John Brumsted), but apparently doesn’t have enough money to pay their nurses the same wages as nurses earn just across the lake in Plattsburgh, where the cost of living is, in fact, lower.” The hospital is also no longer hurting for cash: it’s total operating budget is $1.2 billion. Meanwhile, UVMMC’s chief financial officer Todd Keating disclosed that the hospital has more than 220 days of operating cash on hand.  

Core to the union’s demands is fair compensation for workers whose labor has fueled the hospital’s newly acquired wealth and expansion. The union is asking for a $15 minimum wage for all ancillary hospital staff, many of whom are not included in the bargaining contract. This expression of worker solidarity was supported by the vast majority of union members, notes Adie. “We recognized that we have power through our union that these people don’t have. Many of them are new Americans, and many came here through refugee resettlement programs. They are fearful of joining a union.”

The $15 minimum wage was one plank in a broader strategy of deep internal organizing by the union that began over a year ago. Frustrated over previous concessionary contracts, the union began building a network that would provide the rank-and-file with the confidence to stick it out at the bargaining table and win key demands, including a 24 percent wage increase on par with the salaries of nurses at Champlain Valley Physician’s Hospital in Plattsburgh, N.Y, which is also part of the University of Vermont Health Network. The VFNHP formed member action teams that put rank-and-file members in leadership positions and enabled the union to achieve a 94 percent vote to approve the strike from its membership.  

The nurses’ solidarity campaign also looked outward to labor and progressive allies in the Burlington community and beyond. The union made a point of reaching out to every other union in the region, including the Burlington bus drivers’ and teachers’ unions, both of which have gone on strike in recent years.

A coalition of left groups including the International Socialist Organization, the Democratic Socialists of America and the Vermont Workers Center formed the group “Alliance in Support of UVMMC Nurses,” holding educational events and a picket in support of the strike. A new hashtag and Facebook page, #RedforMed, is taking a cue from the solidarity campaign #RedforEd in support of the teacher’s strike in Arizona, encouraging supporters to post photos of themselves wearing red in support of the strike. On the picket line, community groups and nurses from the New York State Nurses Association and Massachusetts Nurses Association will be joining the VFNHP.

UVMMC’s management, on the other hand, has been intransigent. Late Wednesday night, union member Phillip Macomb noted in a Facebook post that the union had offered a compromise in“the hopes of settling this contract and avert a work stoppage,” but that management rejected the proposal and refused to negotiate. This refusal comes on the heels of a campaign of bullying and intimidation by management throughout the bargaining process, according to striking nurses. The union has filed a total of 21 unfair labor practice charges against management, including attempts to prevent union staffers from coming on site, taking down union fliers, and refusing to seat key decision makers—hospital executives—at the bargaining table.

The strike, slated to be one of the most significant in the region in years, comes on the heels of the wave of recent teachers’ strikes in the United States, as well as a massive, ongoing strike involving 30,000 nurses in New Zealand. Scholars have linked the labor activism of nurses and teachers, not only because they are both female-dominated professions but also because of the strategies they use to organize.

In their book Caring for America, Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein refer to these strategies as “care worker unionism.” Boris and Klein argue that care worker unionism draws a straight line between working conditions and the broader social welfare system—healthcare for nurses, public education for teachers—which defines the conditions of “care.” Care workers have thus had to advocate for larger social goods as part of their demands for expanded workers’ rights.

That is certainly what we’re seeing in Vermont, as nurses are striking not only for a higher salary and better working conditions for themselves, but for a community hospital that puts patients above profits, and that offers all workers dignity and a living wage.

Nurses, like teachers, often face the sidelining of their concerns as workers in favor of the paramount needs of the recipients of their care. But what about the patients? is a common hypothetical question meant to discredit any strike or work disruption among healthcare providers. But Vermont nurses know that the two issues are not counterposed: if the care of patients is to be valued at all, the providers of that care must themselves be valued and materially supported.

The post Vermont Nurses on Strike Demanding Hospital Put Patients Over Profits appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

This not about free speech. This is simply self-defence.

Anarchist News - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 14:30

The far-right have developed a concern for civil-liberties over the last few years and would have you believe that they are the true defenders of freedom. Don’t be fooled, there is a huge chasm between their rhetoric and the reality. Their call for freedom of speech would quickly change if they ever got a chance of power, and they would quickly remove that right from those they perceive as their enemies.

Here in New Zealand there has been some sympathy for the cancelling of an event by Canadians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, who have built a reputation for making controversial, racist statements, and had been due to appear next month at the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland. The Auckland City Council, which owns the venue, pulled the plug on the event, due to “security concerns” involving the “health and safety” of the presenters, staff and patrons of the event, following protests made to the Centre and elsewhere.

In response a planned event, initially in support of the imprisoned English far-right mouthpiece Tommy Robinson, has morphed into a general free speech rally to be held this Saturday 12.00 at the Parliament Buildings in Wellington, with concurrent events being planned for Auckland (Aotea Square) and Christchurch (Entertainment Triangle, North Hagley Park).

As anarchists, we have never had anything but support for freedom of speech for the reason that in an anarchist vision of society, neither the state nor any other institution should be able to determine what we can and cannot say. Additionally, as a revolutionary minority frequently targeted for repression, anarchists worldwide have consistently had speeches, newspapers, websites, and marches attacked, and individuals throughout history, and up to today, have been imprisoned and killed.

Despite this, we will not stand idly by when speech is used to threaten and cause harm to others, or when it reinforces hierarchies and injustices. In this situation, we will not shy away from confronting it in the same way we would confront any other kind of abuse or oppression.

Recently we were accused of drawing attention to Southern and Molyneux when we mentioned their banning, but ignoring them will not make them go away. Allowing the far-right to gather unhindered run the risk of them growing in popularity and influence. Richard Spencer, the prominent far-right activist in the USA, stated earlier this year that he has had to rethink his public events after a number of actions by anti-fascist protestors throughout the USA. This speaks volumes as to the importance of keeping the pressure on the far right.

Others have told us that we should let the right speak, and engage them in debate to expose the poverty of their ideas. We would argue though that it is not the quality of ideas that make people support them (you only have to look at many comments in social media made by right-wing supporters to see how much thinking goes on), but it is the chance to wield power over others in society that make them so attractive to their followers. Again this is the reason we cannot let them gather, in ever-larger numbers, without protest.

Of course, the most common objection to a no-platform stance for the right is the belief that free speech is an essential right for everyone. As we said at the beginning of this statement we are not against free speech. We oppose the far-right because of what they do, or because of what their words lead others to do. Giving them a platform to speak opens the door to their supporters feeling justified to do physical harm to other people. Public speech promoting ideologies of hate, whether or not you consider it violent on its own, always complements and correlates with violent actions. Just two examples include Darren Osbourne who crashed his van into a group of worshippers outside a London mosque, was a follower of far-right websites and twitter feeds, including those from Tommy Robinson; and again in the UK, the murderer of MP Jo Cox, Thomas Mair, had a large collection of fascist literature and shouted “Britain First”, the name of a British fascist organisation, when he committed his murder.

If you care about free speech then it is essential to mobilise against those that would take it away, but we must stress that we won’t do this by appealing to the state to decide who can and who can’t speak. One day we could find the rules being used against us. Instead, we call for this action to take the form of self-organisation and self-defence through our own organisations.

This not about free speech. This is simply self-defence.

Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement

Tags: New ZealandAotoearoaanarchistfree speechcategory: Other
Categories: News

How the EPA and the Pentagon Downplayed a Growing Toxic Threat

Truth Out - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:52

The chemicals once seemed near magical, able to repel water, oil and stains.

By the 1970s, DuPont and 3M had used them to develop Teflon and Scotchgard, and they slipped into an array of everyday products, from gum wrappers to sofas to frying pans to carpets. Known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, they were a boon to the military, too, which used them in foam that snuffed out explosive oil and fuel fires.

It’s long been known that, in certain concentrations, the compounds could be dangerous if they got into water or if people breathed dust or ate food that contained them. Tests showed they accumulated in the blood of chemical factory workers and residents living nearby, and studies linked some of the chemicals to cancers and birth defects.

Now two new analyses of drinking water data and the science used to analyze it make clear the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense have downplayed the public threat posed by these chemicals. Far more people have likely been exposed to dangerous levels of them than has previously been reported because contamination from them is more widespread than has ever been officially acknowledged.

Moreover, ProPublica has found, the government’s understatement of the threat appears to be no accident.

The EPA and the Department of Defense calibrated water tests to exclude some harmful levels of contamination and only register especially high concentrations of chemicals, according to the vice president of one testing company. Several prominent scientists told ProPublica the DOD chose to use tests that would identify only a handful of chemicals rather than more advanced tests that the agencies’ own scientists had helped develop which could potentially identify the presence of hundreds of additional compounds.

The first analysis, contained in an EPA contractor’s PowerPoint presentation, shows that one chemical — the PFAS most understood to cause harm — is 24 times more prevalent in public drinking water than the EPA has reported. Based on this, the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization whose scientists have studied PFAS pollution, has estimated that as many as 110 million Americans are now at risk of being exposed to PFAS chemicals.

In the second analysis, ProPublica compared how the military checks for and measures PFAS-related contamination to what’s identified by more advanced tests. We found that the military relied on tests which are not capable of detecting all the PFAS chemicals it believed to be present. Even then, it underreported its results, sharing only a small part if its data. We also found that the military’s own research programs had retested several of those defense sites using more advanced testing technology and identified significantly more pollution than what the military reported to Congress.

Even before the troubling new information about PFAS chemicals emerged, the government had acknowledged problems relating to them were spreading. Past EPA water testing, however incomplete, identified drinking water contamination across 33 states that Harvard researchers estimated affected some 6 million people. The military suspected drinking water at more than 660 US defense sites where firefighting foam was used could be contaminated; earlier this year, it announced it had confirmed contamination in 36 drinking water systems and in 90 groundwater sites on or near its facilities.

The new analyses suggest these findings likely represent just a fraction of the true number of people and drinking water systems affected.

In written responses to questions, the EPA did not directly address whether it had understated contamination from PFAS chemicals. The agency said it had confidence in its current testing procedures and had set detection limits at appropriate levels. It also stated that it is taking steps towards regulating some PFAS compounds and registering them as “hazardous substances,” a classification that triggers additional oversight under waste and pollution laws.

The agency will “take concrete actions to ensure PFAS is thoroughly addressed and all Americans have access to clean and safe drinking water,” then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who recently resigned, said in the written statement to ProPublica in May.

The Department of Defense also responded to questions in writing, defending its testing methods as the best available and calling it difficult to fully assess risks from PFAS because the EPA has not regulated these chemicals. A DOD spokeswoman said the Pentagon’s research group has a program underway aimed at enhancing the test methods and detecting more PFAS compounds, but suggested that no alternatives were ready for use. She did not answer questions about why the agency reported contamination levels for only two chemicals to Congress when it would have had data on many more, stating only that the Pentagon “is committed to protecting human health and the environment.”

Environmental experts aren’t convinced.

“Widespread contamination may be harming the health of millions or even tens of millions of Americans and the government is intentionally covering up some of the evidence,” said Erik Olson, a senior director for health, food and agriculture initiatives at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an interview. The EPA and Defense Department “have done all they can to sort of drag their feet and avoid meaningful regulatory action in making significant investment in cleanups.”

In May, a Politico report revealed that the EPA and the White House, along with the Defense Department, had pressured a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to withhold a health study expected to warn that people exposed to PFAS chemicals face greater health risks than were previously understood. That report was quietly released in mid-June and, indeed, estimated safe levels of exposure are seven to 10 times smaller than what the EPA has said.

Such a determination could spur stricter limits on exposure than the EPA appears to have considered. Paired with an emerging realization that testing by the EPA and DOD hasn’t captured the true extent of contamination, the government could be forced to reconceive its approach to these compounds, said David Sedlak, the director of the Institute for Environmental Science and Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, who helped develop one of the most advanced commercial tests for PFAS substances.

“Not talking about it isn’t going to make the problem go away,” Sedlak said. “And because these compounds are forever — they aren’t going to degrade on their own — eventually there is going to be a day of reckoning.”

* * *

The PFAS compounds might not exist if weren’t for a lab accident in 1938, when a frozen block of refrigerant turned into an extraordinarily slippery white, waxy mass. A decade later DuPont was manufacturing it as Teflon. 3M developed its own version, the molecularly similar PFOA in 1954, when a chemist inadvertently spilled a mixture of chemicals on her shoe and found the stain was impervious to soap or water. They called it Scotchgard.

These products work, in part, because the chemicals they contain are made up of some of the strongest and most resilient molecular bonds in existence, thanks to a unique structure that keeps them from breaking down. There are thousands of variations, all characterized by extremely strong daisy chains of carbon and fluorine molecules and differentiated mostly by the length of their “tails” — the string of carbon molecules that can be anywhere from two to 14 units long.

In the mid-1970s, with the use of the chemicals proliferating, Dupont and 3M began privately testing the blood of their plant workers and others. The companies had grown increasingly concerned about the toxicity of PFAS compounds, learning that they “bio-accumulate” in food and people and that they could cause harm. But it wasn’t until 2000, when 3M pulled Scotchgard from the market, that the EPA began to investigate PFAS’s potential damage to human health and the environment, and soon after, that the blood tests became public.

At first, the EPA took steps that suggested it would quickly get to the bottom of the problem. Citing the spread of contaminants in water supplies in Minnesota and Ohio, in 2002 the agency launched a “priority review” of some PFAS compounds. It wrote then that exposure can “result in a variety of effects including developmental/reproductive toxicity, liver toxicity and cancer.”

By 2003, the EPA launched its first draft risk assessment for PFOA, typically a substantial step towards establishing strict regulatory standards that limit a chemical’s use and mandate its cleanup. When the draft was released in early 2005, it said that while the epidemiological evidence remained inconclusive, rats tested with PFOA were more likely to develop liver and pancreatic cancers, and there were worrisome signs that workers in plants that manufactured PFOA had a higher risk of dying of prostate cancer.

The EPA also asked industries to voluntarily phase out PFOA-related products, including the firefighting foam, by 2015.

The question was then — and remains today — how much exposure to PFAS chemicals would make people seriously ill?

In 2009, the agency attempted an answer, issuing “provisional” voluntary guidelines for safe levels of the chemicals in drinking water. This meant that for the first time, the government offered a precise, scientific measure for how much of the compounds was too much. But it didn’t mandate those limits, or create a regulation enforceable by law. And even those limits — it would later become clear — proved too loose.

Meanwhile, other instances of water contamination — in Minnesota and Alabama — heightened concerns. One study of 60,000 residents in West Virginia and Ohio exposed to high levels of PFOS and PFOA from a DuPont manufacturing plant and an Army airfield showed they had high rates of thyroid malfunction, testicular and kidney cancers and preeclampsia. The study was completed as part of a roughly $107 million settlement of a lawsuit against DuPont. Studies on animals also linked the chemicals to structural birth defects and dramatic changes in hormone levels.

In 2013, with concern rising over the ubiquity of PFAS compounds, the EPA decided it would test for some of the chemicals in public drinking water systems. The agency regulates chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act and adds new substances to the list based on tests showing they’re widespread enough to pose a national threat. Listing a chemical for such testing is often a step toward creating enforceable regulations for it.

At the same time, the agency began to reconsider the health advisory limit it had established in 2009. In 2016, the agency announced a dramatically lower limit for how much PFAS exposure was safe for people, suggesting a threshold less than one-eighth the amount it had once assured would cause no harm. Under the new guidelines, no more than 70 parts per trillion of the chemicals, less than the size of a single drop in an Olympic pool, were deemed safe.

Yet even this standard remains voluntary and unenforceable. Until there’s a true limit on the concentration of PFAS compounds allowable in drinking water, soil and groundwater — and the classification of PFAS as a hazardous substance — the EPA can’t hold water utilities, companies or other polluters to account. It also can’t compel the Department of Defense to adhere to the standard or clean up contamination.

There is increasing evidence that PFAS contamination is more widespread on and around military bases than previously thought.

The Department of Defense launched a full-scale review of contamination in drinking water systems at its facilities in 2016, despite the lack of clear regulatory limits from the EPA.

This spring the Pentagon reported to Congress that 564 of the 2,445 off-base public and private drinking water systems that it had tested contained PFOS or PFOA above the EPA’s advisory limits. It also announced that groundwater at 90 out of 410 military bases where it tested contained dangerous levels of these two chemicals. A staggering 61 percent of groundwater wells tested exceeded the EPA’s threshold for safety, according to the presentation Maureen Sullivan, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health, gave to Congress in March. Attending to the problem, several news outlets have reported, would cost the Pentagon at least $2 billion.

In presenting its liabilities to Congress, the Defense Department took an important step in wrestling with a troublesome issue, much as the EPA had in undertaking national data collection.

But both agencies have quite deliberately chosen not to use the most advanced tools or to collect the most comprehensive data on contamination, researchers say.

* * *

To identify PFAS compounds in drinking water, the EPA uses a lab test called “Method 537,” which separates microscopic molecules so they can be more easily seen. It’s not the most sophisticated test available, but scientists have used it enough to give them — and regulators — extraordinary confidence in its results. This is the test the EPA chose in 2013, when it directed its labs across the country to test water samples to evaluate emerging PFAS chemical contaminants to help determine whether they should be regulated.

But even though the Method 537 test can detect 14 PFAS compounds, the EPA only asked for data on six of them. The EPA said this was to allow for testing of non-PFAS pollutants, since the agency is only allowed to target a certain number of emerging contaminants in each round of tests.

The agency also set detection thresholds for the six PFAS compounds included as much as 16 times higher than what the test was sensitive enough to detect — so high that only the most extreme cases of contamination were reflected in the federal drinking water dataset.

Indeed, according to a recent presentation by Andrew Eaton, vice president of Eurofins Eaton Analytical, the largest drinking water test lab in the country, which handled testing of more than 10,000 samples from 1,100 public water systems — about 30 percent of the EPA’s water samples overall — vast amounts of detected contamination was ignored by design.

Through its federal water quality reporting, the EPA has said publicly that PFOA was detected in just 1 percent of water samples across the nation. But when Eaton recently went back and reanalyzed the data the EPA didn’t want, he found PFOA was in nearly 24 percent of the samples his company tested.

Another chemical, PFBS, is considered a sentinel because in situations where it is a component of contamination also containing PFAS and PFOA, it travels further and faster in water and shows up months or years ahead in places where PFOA or PFOS are ultimately detected. The EPA has reported that PFBS was found in less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all its water samples — not even one in 100. Eaton’s re-analysis detected the sentinel chemical in nearly one out of eight of samples.

“It basically says the plume is on its way, that’s the leading indicator… PFOS and PFOA is likely on the way to your house,” said Jennifer Field, a professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at Oregon State University. Field is a leading expert on test methods for PFAS compounds. The Department of Defense helps fund her research. “If you are on the hydrological flow path it’s a matter of time and distance.”

The EPA defended its detection limits, saying its testing protocol is designed to yield consistent, reliable results even if labs conducting the tests are less sophisticated.

But the government is far from certain that lower levels of PFAS compounds than those that count as contamination by the EPA’s definition aren’t health threats. The EPA has repeatedly lowered how much exposure to PFAS compounds it considers acceptable. And when the CDC finally released its health analysis for PFAS compounds in June, it called for limits of one compound to be 10 times lower than the EPA’s current threshold, and another to be seven times lower. Such a standard would be more in line with some states, which already have tougher limits in place. New Jersey, for example, has set its exposure limit for PFOA at roughly one-fifth of what the EPA prescribes.

The EPA’s testing protocol — which only certifies the 537 test, with its limitations — also hasn’t kept up with fast-evolving science around PFAS chemicals. Researchers have identified new forms of the chemicals and, potentially, new dangers from these variants.

In 2016, Field and several other researchers — as part of a Defense Department research program examining water samples from 15 defense sites where firefighting foam was used (researchers declined to name them) — identified 40 new families of PFAS chemicals, consisting of some 240 compounds they’d never seen before.

“You’re starting to get this idea that more complex chemistry was used at these sites than was picked up in the tests, and that’s kind of the punchline,” said Field, of the firefighting foam sites in particular. “There is more mass down there, there are more species and in higher concentrations than what you see.”

Method 537, as a rule, is not capable of detecting these additional compounds. Yet when the Pentagon launched its own water testing program at US bases in 2016, it chose to use the EPA’s outdated testing process, even though a test capable of detecting the presence of dozens of additional PFAS compounds was available. That test, called the Top Assay, was even developed with Defense Department support.

Instead, the Defense Department relied exclusively on the 537 test and then, when it reported its findings to Congress this past March, it offered only the results for PFOS and PFOA and not the other 12 compounds the test process identifies, because that’s what Congress had asked for. Indeed, according to one memorandum from the Department of the Navy, the armed services were explicitly instructed to withhold their extra data — at least for the time being — because it was “not being used to make decisions.”

“If you were going to spend $200 million testing DoD sites across the country, wouldn’t you want to test for all of the chemicals you know you used?” asked Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics, who has been active on chemical cleanup issues at Defense sites.

“It’s almost like a deliberate thing, where you’re going to tell people their water is safe to drink, and you know that you have a gap in your testing and you know that you haven’t found all of the chemicals in the water.”

Scientists are only now beginning to understand the importance of the information the government is choosing to leave out. Field has found, for example, not only that there are more variations of PFAS compounds, but that some degrade over time into PFOS or PFOA, or, like PFBS, travel faster in the environment, making them predictors for other contaminants soon to come.

Many of the variants with shorter “tails” — or shorter chains of molecules than the test methods can detect — “are likely to break through systems designed to capture” them, Field and others wrote in a 2017 paper published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. They are also more likely to elude the water treatment methods the EPA and the Department of Defense are using to clean water identified as contaminated.

The consequence of these systemic blind spots is that “by the time you see PFOS and PFOA you may have been drinking other things for a longer period of time,” Field said.

When Field retested water samples at several US defense sites using the most advanced testing available, she found that many of these obscure additional chemicals were nearly uniformly present — and in huge numbers. At one site, for example, where PFOS was detected at 78,000 parts per trillion, another obscure PFAS compound was present at nearly three times that concentration.

Based on Eaton’s higher-resolution detection rates, scientists at the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that researches the dangers of PFAS compounds, have generated new estimates of contamination linked to the chemicals.

They now think more than 110 million people have been exposed to the compounds through their drinking water, more than five times as many as the group had previously estimated.

The EPA “has really underplayed the extent of contamination,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG. “The scope of the problem seems to be expanding.”

The post How the EPA and the Pentagon Downplayed a Growing Toxic Threat appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

New Film Highlights Women’s Role in the First Palestinian Intifada

Truth Out - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:29

The Palestinian struggle against settler colonialism has adopted many forms since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. These entailed individual and collective forms of violent resistance, but also extensive diplomatic efforts and an array of other nonviolent strategies.

In 1987, the first Palestinian Intifada erupted as a response to the brutal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It included a vast assortment of tactics aimed at challenging the Israeli encroachment on Palestinian freedoms and rights, such as civilian disobedience in the forms of general strikes, boycotts, rejection of taxes and protest graffiti, as well as throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli army and police.

The Intifada also fostered a spontaneous, nonviolent, women-led collective uprising, which emphasized the importance of an intersectional approach to the Palestinian struggle.

Naila and the Uprising is a new documentary film that focuses on this unique and inspiring moment in Palestinian history through the vantage point of several of its leaders. The film was produced by the organization Just Vision, a nonprofit that highlights the power and reach of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity and equality.

Julia Bacha is the director of Naila and the Uprising, a Peabody and Guggenheim award-winning filmmaker, media strategist and the creative director at Just Vision.

Suhad Babaa is the executive director at Just Vision and regularly speaks on the Palestinian struggle for justice with policy makers, community leaders, educators and students.

In this interview, Bacha and Babaa discuss the story of Naila and the Uprising, their motivations for creating the film and the lessons it can teach all those who wish to promote equality and justice in Palestine and beyond.

Yoav Litvin: Discuss your motivations for creating Naila and the Uprising. How do you perceive the film’s unique contribution within the vast number of books and documentaries dedicated to the plight of Palestinians? How does it relate to current events?

Julia Bacha: Naila and the Uprising reframes a critical historical moment — the First Intifada. The film presents this period as centered around the growth of a Palestinian national movement, but also a collective struggle for women’s liberation. The major role of women is largely unexplored in much of the available documentation or analysis of Palestinian civil society in general, and the First Intifada in particular. Naila and the Uprising seeks to rectify this gap.

We knew this was an important legacy to document, but we did not anticipate how relevant the film would be upon its release. Today, Palestinian women are still marginalized, and their role within the struggle overlooked. Women in Gaza, for example, [were] on the front lines once again during the recent Great March of Return. The broad-based popular nature of the recent Gaza protests allow[ed] women to participate and be visible to an extent not seen since the First Intifada. In fact, women organizers and activists in Gaza are making direct comparisons between the Great March of Return and the First Intifada. These events may indicate new opportunities for women to engage in the simultaneous struggles for Palestinian national and women’s liberation.

Describe a surprising discovery or epiphany you had throughout the process of filming Naila and the Uprising.

Bacha: Interestingly, my team at Just Vision and I did not set out to make a film about women leaders of the First Intifada. We wanted to make a film that revealed the incredible and highly effective civil resistance that characterized the uprising — something we knew held mythical weight in the history of the Palestinian struggle. As we delved into our research, however, we discovered a strong relationship between the incredible effectiveness of the civil resistance and the fact that women were central to leading it. Once we focused on this aspect, the story of Naila and the Uprising unfolded organically — one woman activist led to another until we had access to a whole network of female activists whose stories were waiting to be told.

Movements are far more likely to achieve their aims when women play a central role in civil society.

This phenomenon is by no means unique to Palestinians; the leadership and central role of women is well documented in the history of civil resistance movements and not unique to the First Intifada. In fact, movements are far more likely to achieve their aims when women play a central role in civil society because women are more inclined toward the tools and strategies of nonviolent resistance than are men. We tied the experience of the women leaders we interviewed to that research in our TED Talk.

What are your aims at Just Vision and methods for achieving them? How do you coordinate between Palestinians in the shatat (i.e. diaspora) and those in Palestine to achieve your goals?

Suhad Babaa: At Just Vision, we focus on the need to draw inspiration and learn from the long lineage of grassroots civil resistance leaders in Palestine and Israel. This is clearly conveyed in our previous film projects, Encounter Point, Budrus, My Neighbourhood and The Wanted 18.

For Naila and the Uprising, we employed a team of international, Palestinian and Israeli researchers and archivists, who pored through hundreds of hours of archival news footage, and worked with Dominique Doktor and Sharron Mirsky as our lead animators. It was a five-year journey from the moment we began research to our world premiere at DOC NYC [an annual documentary film festival] in November 2017.

We believe that effective storytelling is essential for shaping the public norms around Israel and Palestine, challenging prejudices, and creating the political space for courageous policy-making to end the Israeli occupation and build a region in which both Israelis and Palestinians can thrive.

For years before the First Intifada erupted, women were active and organizing.

Because we work simultaneously in Palestine, Israel and the US, we aim to connect activists and advocates in their struggles. That being said, the shatat is increasingly connected with local activism, whether in Haifa, Jerusalem, the Naqab, Gaza or Jenin. We see our films as resources that can inform and inspire a broad base of individuals who care about a just future, whether they are in the region or not.

Naila and the Uprising focuses much of its attention on a spontaneously created women’s collective struggle. Discuss some of your insights on how such a struggle formed, sustained itself and effectively confronted oppression. What were some of its mistakes? What lessons are to be gleaned by other movements that seek to confront patriarchy?

Bacha: A critical point was emphasized to us in nearly every interview we conducted with women activists from the First Intifada: The women’s collective struggle did not appear spontaneously out of thin air. For years before the First Intifada erupted, women were active and organizing — in women’s groups, student unions and collectives. This organizing effectively laid the ground work for the unified struggle that emerged with the uprising. The collective nature of the struggle is part of how it sustained itself — there was such a powerful sense of unity and purpose among Palestinians during that time.

In terms of confronting oppression, the uprising was largely grounded in unarmed, mass civil resistance. This allowed space for all segments of society to participate — the young, the elderly, students and particularly women. On every level, including economic, Palestinians withheld their consent to be occupied any longer, making it unsustainable for the Israelis to continue with “business as usual.”

One poignant and ironic element of this story is how cognizant the women were about the dangers of being sidelined if they were to succeed. They understood from the very beginning (and this understanding was borne out) how deeply entrenched patriarchy is, and how difficult it is to confront and challenge patriarchy in movement-building.

Azza, a leader in the First Intifada, says in the film, “We shouldn’t have ended the Intifada until our objectives were met.” This can be applied to the uprising’s goals related to women’s liberation, as well as the national liberation goals. Ending the mass, civil resistance did not yield progress on either front.

Their struggle for national liberation was and is informed by a simultaneous struggle for gender equality within their own patriarchal society.

This is as true today as it was during the First Intifada, and is equally true in movement struggles around the globe, including here in the United States. The greater the shared understanding between women and men allies that patriarchy is deeply entrenched in the power structures of so many of our movements, the more effective we can be at shifting these dynamics. Palestinian women during the First Intifada did not have enough political power to prevent their movement from being co-opted by more powerful forces. The film provokes the question: How can we design our movement structures and systems today to make that co-optation less likely?

The German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht famously said, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” What are your hopes for Naila and the Uprising? Is it simply meant to be informative, or to inspire action? If so, how and who?

Julia Bacha (Courtesy of Just Vision)Julia BachaJust Vision

Bacha: At Just Vision, we believe that stories and storytelling impact how an informed public makes decisions and takes action. In that sense, we hope the film educates audiences about the power of civil resistance and the crucial role that women play at the front lines, while also serving as a cautionary tale about the deleterious effects of sidelining women leaders.

On a grassroots level, Naila and the Uprising opens up space to connect the Palestinian struggle with other movements centered on liberation, justice and equality. We hope the film will provide inspiration for movement activists all over the world — including, of course, the ongoing struggle in Palestine — and provide a space for all our movements to learn from each other and build together.

Is there a hierarchy of oppressions within Palestinian society? How does Just Vision tackle the intersectionality of these different injustices?

Suhad Babaa (Courtesy of Just Vision)Suhad BabaaJust Vision

Babaa: As several Palestinian women in the film point out, their struggle for national liberation was and is informed by a simultaneous struggle for gender equality within their own patriarchal society. I think activist Sama Aweida put it best when she said: “We can’t be free as women unless we’re in a free country. And even if we are free of the occupation, we can’t know freedom as long as we are subjugated in our own society.” The sentiment is reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr’s now famous quote: “No one is free until we are all free.”

At Just Vision we also believe the many layers of human emancipation are inextricably linked. It is one reason why our body of work — from Local Call, our Hebrew-language news site, to our films — has always amplified the needs, concerns and effective strategies of communities struggling for freedom, dignity and equality for everyone in the region.

See here for future screenings of Naila and the Uprising.

The post New Film Highlights Women’s Role in the First Palestinian Intifada appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Fake Grassroots Campaigns Deserve Uprooting

deSmog - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:13
Read time: 4 minsPatch of astroturf on real grass

AstroTurf looks and feels like grass—in an all-too-perfect way. But it’s not grass.

Now the well-known artificial turf’s brand name has taken on a new meaning, referring to purported “grassroots” efforts that are actually funded and supported by industry and political entities.

Tags: PhillipMorrisclimate science denialHeartland Instituteastroturfingoregon petitionethical oil
Categories: News

Trump’s Angry Tweets and Secret Deals Will Not Lower Drug Prices

Truth Out - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:05

We can only imagine how the Trump administration’s internal conversation about lowering the price of pharmaceuticals has been going.

President Trump campaigned on the issue and has repeatedly made bold promises to bring down the price of drugs since taking office. Trump chose a solid issue to stump on. Polls show that voters are furious about the cost of medicine and want lower prices to be a top priority in Washington.

Fulfilling these promises is another story. As Trump’s aides may have explained to him, sparking meaningful decreases in drug costs within a short period of time — say, the first few years of a presidential administration — would require government intervention in the pharmaceutical market and supply chain. Lawmakers may need to pass sweeping legislation, and new regulations are something that most Republicans, the health lobby and Trump himself generally oppose.

So, Trump tapped Alex Azar, a former Bush administration official who spent several years working as a top pharmaceutical executive, to come up with a plan. After weeks of delay and with much fanfare, Trump and Azar finally released a blueprint for lowering drug costs in May. Trump began making bold claims that drug makers would lower their prices within weeks in response.

It never happened. Biotech and pharmaceutical stock prices jumped after the blueprint was released because investors saw little long-term threat to their profit margins. By late June and early July, drug companies were once again raising prices for hundreds of drugs, just as they do every year.

So, predictably, Trump lashed out on Twitter earlier this week, saying Pfizer “and others” should be “ashamed” for raising drug prices “for no reason.” Then he got the company’s CEO on the phone. Pfizer caved and agreed to delay price hikes on 100 drugs until the blueprint “goes into effect” or the end of the year — whichever comes sooner. This would give the president “an opportunity to work on his blueprint,” according to the company’s statement.

Trump chalked the concession up to a win, but critics quickly pointed out that Pfizer did not lower any prices, nor does the agreement prevent other companies from continuing to raise prices. For example, the drug maker Celgene just hiked the price of the life-extending cancer drug Revlimid by 5 percent and has raised the price a total of 25 percent over the past 18 months, according to the non-partisan advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs.

“Pfizer’s PR stunt is unenforceable, unverifiable and non-binding,” said Charles Fournier, vice president of the Type 1 Diabetes Defense Foundation, a group that fights for lower insulin prices, in an email. “There is no substitute for full rebate pass-through and net price disclosure.”

Patients for Affordable Drugs President David Mitchell said he was “glad” to see Trump get tough on Pfizer, but one conversation with one pharmaceutical executive is not enough to fix the problem.

“There are other companies that have increased prices and could use the pressure of a Presidential tweet,” Mitchell said in a statement. “But one-off tweets do not fix the systemic problems we have with drug prices. We need long-term structural action to provide enduring relief.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) went even further, saying Trump’s deal with Pfizer is just the kind of “secret, sweetheart arrangement” that defines the broken drug pricing system.

“Instead of proposing meaningful changes that result in lower costs for families and taxpayers, Trump and his Administration are busy scoring cheap PR points that don’t address the fundamental challenges that lead to higher prices every year,” Wyden said in a statement.

Wyden is referring to the system of secret rebating agreements struck between drug companies, pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies that systematically increase the sticker price of certain drugs. As Truthout has reported, all the players in this supply chain profit from higher drug prices, and they have used the system’s sheer opacity to blame each other for rising costs at the pharmacy, particularly for those with little or no health coverage.

In separate letters sent to Pfizer and Azar this week, Wyden demanded to know the details of the deal Trump struck with Pfizer. Did Trump agree to give Pfizer special consideration as his administration works to implement the drug-pricing blueprint in exchange for the price hike delay? And what about the federal statute that prohibits the government from negotiating drug prices in the Medicare Part D program, which Trump proposed lifting during his campaign but later backed away from? Trump can’t formally reject a proposal to repeal this rule and then attempt to negotiate drug prices himself, Wyden argues.

Wyden also asked Pfizer how its decision to delay the price hikes would impact its secret rebate negotiations with pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies. Congressional Democrats and several states want to shed light on these backroom agreements, and Wyden has introduced legislation that would require transparency for companies participating in the Medicare program.

There is already evidence that such transparency can bring prices down. California passed an aggressive law requiring drug companies to notify insurers and government health plans at least 60 days before issuing major price hikes, and Bloomberg reported this week that a handful of drug makers have reduced or canceled previously announced price increases as a result.

The pharmaceutical industry has sued to block the law, arguing that watchdogs should examine how insurance companies distribute savings from rebate payments through their health plans instead. During a recent congressional testimony, Azar said that drug makers could lose a competitive advantage if they lower their prices, because high prices allow them to pay higher rebates to pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies that control access to their customers.

Azar has threatened to take a “hard look” at the secret rebating system if all the players involved can’t figure out a solution for lowering prices on their own, but cautioned reexamining the entire drug supply chain would take time and potentially action from Congress. He has also threatened drug companies with rules requiring they put their drug prices in TV ads. As of now, however, these are just threats, and drug companies don’t appear to be responding.

Trump took matters into his own hands this week, a good sign that he is not interested in waiting for prices to come down. Meanwhile, Wyden’s office says that his transparency bill remains stuck in committee because Republicans refuse to support it. Maybe Trump should send some angry tweets their way as well.

The post Trump’s Angry Tweets and Secret Deals Will Not Lower Drug Prices appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Water Protector ‘Little Feather’ Makes it to Prison

It's Goin Down - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 08:41

The post Water Protector ‘Little Feather’ Makes it to Prison appeared first on It's Going Down.

Update on Standing Rock political prisoner, Little Feather.

Little Feather (Michael Giron) has made it to prison after being sentenced to 3 years. He will likely be at USP Hazelton for the next 21 months. Please shoot him a letter, card and see how he is, show him some love and support.

Michael Giron #25201-075

USP Hazelton
U.S. Pentitentiary
P.O. Box 2000
Bruceton Wills, WV  26525

You can donate to Little Feather’s commissary at

Michael Giron, “Little Feather,” is a Water Protector from the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, raised in Santa Barbara, California.

Little Feather, was charged with Civil Disorder and Use of Fire to Commit a Federal Felony Offense, arising from events of October 27, 2016. On February 8th, 2018, he changed his plea in accordance with a non cooperating plea agreement with the prosecution. Under this plea agreement, the Use of Fire charge – which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and the possibility of up to 15 years in prison – will be dropped entirely, and Little Feather will take responsibility for aiding a civil disorder.

The plea agreement was accepted by Judge Daniel Hovland, who is presiding over the case. Prosecutors and the defense jointly recommend a sentence of 36 months on the Civil Disorder charge, although the judge does have the authority to go as high as five years. This is a non-cooperating agreement relating only to Little Feather’s own actions and does not require any testimony or information about anyone else. Little Feather and his legal team were facing monumental challenges including the prospect of trial with a hostile jury pool, limited discovery, and the risk of a long prison sentence. His sentencing was on May 30, 2018 at 1pm and was sentenced to 36 months in prison. Little Feather is the first NoDAPL political prisoner.

Little Feather came to Standing Rock with his family. While there, he was of service to the elders and the community. Daily he would check on the elders, retrieve water, chop and deliver wood, cook, clean, give rides, rescue those in need, and so much more. Little Feather created special relationships with those around him. He has a giving heart and spirit to those that know him. His Indigenous spirit will be forever changed by his experiences in Standing Rock.

More about the other Water Protectors currently in prison or facing prison time can be found at

Categories: News

“Unmasking Antifa” Fact Sheet So Off Base – Even Dates Are Wrong

It's Goin Down - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 05:56

The post “Unmasking Antifa” Fact Sheet So Off Base – Even Dates Are Wrong appeared first on It's Going Down.

Today It’s Going Down was able to get a copy of a “fact sheet” which the office of Republican Rep. of New York, Dan Donovan, has been distributing to media as he promotes his “Unmasking Antifa” bill.

The bill, along with several others like it, all seek to further criminalize already existing laws against illegal acts, and is aimed at attacking a broad range of autonomous social movements from Black Lives Matter, to pipeline protesters, to antiracist activists.

In Donovan’s bill, he is seeking to further criminalize illegal acts undertaken while a person is wearing a mask. Similar anti-mask bills across the US have already been put forward and passed, (and 18 states already have mask laws), and numerous other bills are likewise designed to make it legal to run over protesters in the street, increase fines and charges against those who block roadways such as at Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and reclassify anti-pipeline demonstrators as domestic terrorists.

Members of the Golden State Skinheads/Traditionalist Worker Party wear masks as they stab multiple counter protesters. According to Don Donavon, the antifascists who they are stabbing should be put in prison for 15 years.

With Donovan’s bill however, another outcome will be a continued signal to the far-Right and Alt-Right, that the Trump administration has their back, that it turns the other way in the face of acts of far-Right violence, and that it will mobilize the State to attack anyone that would stand up to them. This of course is coupled with the reality that like never before, the far-Right is engaging in acts of murder and terror against the public. To politicians like Donovan, this violence is permitted and allowed, as long as it is aimed at those at the bottom of the social hierarchy and social movements for change.

Members of Atomwaffen Division give Nazi salutes while wearing masks at a paramilitary training camp. The group has been linked to a series of bombings and brutal murders. To politicians like Don Donovan, these people are not a threat even though they attack the public at large.

This follows a trajectory that has already been set in place since Trump came into office, as far-Right and white nationalist groups were removed from various watch lists, and both Trump and his associates have down played far-Right acts of terror as “false flags” or even defended them as in the “both sides” comments made post Charlottesville. As Mike “Enoch” Peinovich stated on a podcast before Unite the Right in August of 2017, Trump and Bannon are giving them “the space to destroy,” as police use kid gloves on the Alt-Right, which in the past several years has racked up a massive body count while hate crimes, bombings, and racist attacks have gone through the roof.

Members of the far-Right wear masks at a Patriot Prayer rally.

In the eyes of elites like Dan Donovan however, the main threat is those that would stand up to them, not the neo-Nazis, Alt-Right trolls, and white supremacists who are murdering people on our streets, in our schools, and in our places of worship.

A “Fact Sheet” With No Facts

The Donovan “fact sheet” is rife with errors – even the date of one of the only 4 listed incidents of “antifa violence” that Donovan’s office could complie is wrong! Marked as “June 2017,” the “fact sheet’ refers to violent clashes in Sacramento that actually happened in June of 2016.

But the lies and distortions contained within the “fact sheet” go march farther. In the case of Sacramento for instance, the handout implies that antifascists engaged in stabbings, when in reality it was antifascists who were attacked by knife wielding neo-Nazis who also carried handguns. The other examples continue in a similar trajectory.

Let’s walk through the four examples that are given in this “fact sheet.”

  • There were no Molotov cocktails thrown at the Milo protest in Berkeley. While according to multiple eye witness reports people did shoot off fireworks, and at one point a mobile light fixture toppled over and was engulfed in flames, no one threw bottles filed with gasoline. This lie however, reported on by both Right and Centrist sources who were almost entirely not in attendance that night has gone on to to be added into both FBI and DHS reports, which has mutated into claims that antifa “firebombed Trump supporters,” such as Politico wrote back in 2017. Even the Dan Donovan “fact sheet” doesn’t state who or what these fictional Molotovs were supposedly thrown at. Reaching out to the admins at the Berkeley Antifa Twitter account as to why these false claims persist, they stated:

Molotov cocktails were not used in Berkeley on February 1, 2017. Conservative media outlets such as Breitbart, many of which not even having witnessed the events firsthand, conflated fireworks with Molotov cocktails. This is consistent with the many deliberate lies and twisted narratives invented by the right in order to silence and eliminate dissent in this country.

Jeremy Christian throws up a neo-Nazi salute while at a Patriot Prayer rally. Christian would go on to murder two people a nearly a third only a short time later. Dan Donovan thinks that the Alt-Right murdering people on public trains is less of an issue than a few cans of pepper spray found on antifascists at a protest.

  • In Portland just as in Charlottesville, far-Right demonstrators have engaged in more violence against the public and counter-protesters – up to and including murder, yet Donovan’s “fact sheet” only mentions supposed weapons found by police coming from antifascists. In June of 2017, thousands protested Patriot Prayer in Portland after an attendee at far-Right rallies organized by Joey Gibson, Jeremy Christian, savagely stabbed to death two people on a Portland train and almost killed a third, after the three men attempted to stop Christian from attacking two young women of color. Later in court, Christian screamed, “Death to antifa!” The Patriot Prayer rally in June of 2017 did end in violence, but not at the hands of antifascists, but instead when police attacked the antifascist protesters with projectile weapons. According to Donovan’s “fact sheet” however, after police attacked the crowd, police found various weapons antifascists had left behind. Ironically however, just weeks ago on June 30th, police and DHS agents collected many of the same weapons as well as pistol magazines at the entrance of a Patriot Prayer rally that ended in far-Right attackers almost killing several counter-demonstrators.

Weapons and gun magazines taken from Patriot Prayer attendees on June 30th, 2018. Source Clark County 161

A knife wielding (and mask wearing) neo-Nazi Derrik Punneo attacked and stabbed several people, yet never did any jail time. Police told him afterward that they saw the neo-Nazis as “the victims” of the Sacramento rally that ended in violent clashes.

A handgun dropped by one of the neo-Nazis in Sacramento. Another gun was seen in the waistband of another racist skinhead. SOURCE: IGD

Right media attempted to paint Alt-Right trolls with histories of making violent threats as “everyday Trump supporters” who at “random” were attacked by mobs of antifascists.

  • In August of 2017, several fights broke out when Alt-Right provocateurs – not mere ‘Trump supporters’ – entered into a massive crowd of 10,000 antiracist protesters in Berkeley, after Alt-Right organizers cancelled a Facebook event for a rally that did not have a permit. Two weeks after Charlottesville, tens of thousands of people converged in San Francisco and Berkeley against two Alt-Right rallies (both were called off by organizers at the last minute) that were set to feature speakers and groups that had attended and been involved in the Unite the Right neo-Nazi demonstration, which lead to the death of Heather Heyer. In Berkeley, 10,000 mobilized to protest a rally that did not have a permit, and was even cancelled by the organizer herself. Despite this, Alt-Right trolls attempted to harass, attack, and film people within the crowd, leading to several fights. Scenes of these fights were then used by the far-Right press and various pundits to try and prove that ‘antifa’ was randomly beating ‘everyday’ Trump supporters. Keith Campbell became the most visible example of this, after appearing on the Tucker Carlson show, and claimed he had been singled out for attack at random while walking home from getting groceries. However far from a “normal” Trump supporter, Campbell was an Alt-Right troll, a fan of Unite the Right organizers on social media, a member of the Oath Keepers militia, and a long time Alt-Right activist who had made repeated violent threats against antifascists and left-wing organizers online. As one article on It’s Going Down wrote:

As journalists from Mother Jones and Reveal have pointed out, the physical altercations were small in number and often were the result of far-Right individuals both attacking large crowds with pepper spray and provoking them. One individual stands out in the handful of physical fights however, Keith Campbell, who was surrounded by antifascists and kicked and punched, leading Reveal journalist Al Letson to intervene on his behalf, allowing him to exit the area. Media pundits on the Right and on social media have attempted to paint Campbell as innocently someone out to pick up groceries…[which] is a ridiculous lie considering he lives in El Cerrito and had publicly expressed his intention to participate in the rally on social media.

[F]or weeks leading up to the event, [Campbell] encouraged confrontation and violence with counter-protesters and claimed that like on April 15th, antifascists were going to be attacked by members of the Alt-Right and far-Right individuals.

Campbell was initially spotted by antifa walking around while trying to blend in with the crowd and recording people’s faces as a part of his ongoing doxxing of antifascists on social media. As you can see on Campbell Twitter account, he was actively livestreaming from the event with Juan Cadavid, a Proud Boy from Southern California who works openly with neo-Nazi crews. Only a day before, Cadavid posted photos of himself while holding a tiki torch, a reference to the violent neo-Nazi march that happened the night before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Alt-Right livestreaming outlet The Red Elephants also had posted flyers promoting a similar tiki torch march in Sacramento that never materialized.

The "peaceful victim" from Berkeley you've been seeing shared by the alt-right literally was looking for a fight. More alt-right lies

— New York City Antifa (@NYCAntifa) August 28, 2017

The Meaning of the “Unmasking Antifa” Bill

We live at a time when neo-Nazis, white supremacists, holocaust deniers, and members of the Alt-Right are attempting to carve out a space for themselves within the Republican Party and run for office under its banner. At the same time, suit and tie white nationalists involved in groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) have been given jobs within the government within agencies such as ICE and DHS. Meanwhile, Trump as well as close associates like Steve Miller, and talking heads like Tucker Carlson continue to promote white nationalist policies, talking points, and ideas on a daily basis, while other Republicans openly share neo-Nazi memes and tweets without fear of repercussion.

List of recent murders carried out by the Alt-Right.

Meanwhile, there has been an explosion of hate crimes, bombings of mosques, attacks and vandalism of synagogues and holocaust memorials, and moreover, an explosion of death from the far-Right and the Alt-Right. As Christopher Mathias wrote:

White supremacists in the United States killed more than twice as many people in 2017 as they did the year before, and were responsible for far more murders than domestic Islamic extremists, helping make 2017 the fifth deadliest year on record for extremist violence in America, a new report states.

For the entire Right, the myth of a violent ‘antifa’ boogeyman is as easy as it is important. On one hand it is a natural extension of the “commie” threat many people grew up with, and on the other, it seeks to obscure the very real violence coming from the Right itself.

Members of the violent neo-Nazi group Rise Above Movement in Berkeley. Well known for wearing masks, these far-Right militants have carried out multiple acts of violence while covering their faces, yet are not seen as a threat by politicians on the Right like Don Donovan.

But the political class also knows that it is also carrying out real attacks on the working-class; gutting basic social safety nets while the economy continues to immiserate and impoverish millions. In this context, repressive laws are tools to put down potential poor and working-class insurgency before it starts.

Moreover lies and conspiracy theories – whether about Black Lives Matter, Water Protectors, or antifa, makes it easier to sell repression to the public; to manufacture the consent of the governed. The question, will we buy it?

One thing is clear, such criminalization of social movements, especially those that stand up to violent far-Right groups, isn’t going to make anyone in the public safer. If anything, it’s going to continue to give the far-Right, neo-Nazis, and Alt-Right trolls the confidence to continue to engage in violent action that leaves more people dead and broader communities under siege.

Categories: News

Rosenstein target of impeachment filing being prepared by House conservatives - report

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 04:41

Rosenstein target of impeachment filing being prepared by House conservatives - report | 13 July 2018 | Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is the target of an impeachment effort being undertaken by conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a report. U.S. Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, both members of the House Freedom Caucus, are said to be leading the effort and could submit an impeachment filing in the next few days, Politico reported Friday. Rosenstein has been clashing with some House Republicans for months over requests for Department of Justice documents, the Washington Examiner reported.

Categories: News

UK police claim to have found bottle containing 'Novichok' nerve agent in Amesbury victim’s house

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 03:32

UK police claim to have found bottle containing 'Novichok' nerve agent in Amesbury victim’s house | 13 July 2018 | UK police say they have found the source of the nerve agent that allegedly poisoned two people in Amesbury, killing one. They claim the source appears to be a small bottle discovered in one of the victim's homes. The bottle was apparently found in Charlie Rowley's house in Amesbury on Wednesday. "Scientists have now confirmed to us that the substance contained within the bottle is Novichok," a Friday statement by police said. Investigators say they've not yet determined how a bottle of supposedly weapons-grade chemicals ended up in Rowley's home, or if there are more like it around.

Categories: News

Inside, Outside, All On the Same Side: Prison Strike Round Table

It's Goin Down - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 22:03

The post Inside, Outside, All On the Same Side: Prison Strike Round Table appeared first on It's Going Down.

In this episode we talk to people across the country involved in the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), one of the groups which has officially signed on to endorse the upcoming August 21st prison strike. IWOC was one of the organizations pivotal in supporting the 2016 prison strike which kicked off on September 9th – the anniversary of the Attica uprising, and spread to prisons across the US, and even into Mexico and Greece. Solidarity actions took place across the US and the world, and marked a turning point in how prison slavery under the 13th Amendment is viewed in this society.



— Jailhouse Lawyers (@JailLawSpeak) April 24, 2018

Wanting to to know more about what is going down this August, we talked with Karen from Gainesville IWOC about the upcoming strike, report backs from the Fight Toxic Prisons and IWOC conferences, repression that prisoners face for organizing, as well as what has been happening in Florida prisons since Operation PUSH kicked off in January. We then talked with Brooke of Oakland IWOC about the importance of the strike, the prisoners demands, as well as the continuous wave of action on the inside that happened over the past few months. We close by talking with two IWOC/IWW members who were present at an international gathering of anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist labor unions; organizations which have agreed to stand in solidarity with the strike. We talk about the importance of this international solidarity and how we can hopefully see it grow in the future.

@SlaveryPrison The first edition of Solid Black Fist: Across the wires, Freedom fighter news is out. Ready to print, share and distribute among national prison strike participants and advocates

— Amani Sawari (@SawariMi) July 9, 2018

One thing is clear, as word of the strike grows on the inside, the State is responding with repression, censorship, and outright brutality. Strike leaders are moved and isolated, mail and publications are censored, and new repressive rules are put in place. At the same time, more and more people on the outside are starting to organize against the carceral State, prison slavery, ICE and detention centers, and the criminalization of everyday life, from migration to jumping turnstiles. As the strike goes closer, we hope that this interview both inspires people to get involved as well as make plans to organize and engage in solidarity.

More Info: Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, Support Prisoner Resistance, Fight Toxic Prisons, Why Are People Calling for a Strike?“, “Statement in Solidarity With Those Fighting ICE,” and August 21st is Going to Be Lit.”

Categories: News

Durham, NC: Wall Piece in Solidarity with Missouri Prisoners and Prison Strike

It's Goin Down - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 20:11

The post Durham, NC: Wall Piece in Solidarity with Missouri Prisoners and Prison Strike appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following short report and photos were anonymously sent to It’s Going Down.

Late last night we painted a large wall piece in view of the busy 15/501 corridor between Chapel Hill and Durham, NC, in prep for the upcoming August 21st national prison strike and in solidarity with the Tipton, Missouri prisoners still on lock-down for refusing to put up with the bullshit. There is no wall they can build that we cannot paint, climb over, dig under, go around, or break into a thousand pieces to return to the earth from which it came.

-some anarchists

Categories: News

TFN #15: Chinga La Migra

It's Goin Down - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 19:35

The post TFN #15: Chinga La Migra appeared first on It's Going Down. brings us their weekly installment of The Fuckin News, this time discussing the #OccupyICE movement and the J20 case.

In this week’s TFN, protests against ICE have been heating up across the United Snakes. We take a look at the dynamics of these occupations, plus the recent victory in the J20 trials and the alt-right’s latest plans to “Unite the Right”.

Categories: News

Biji Berxwedan! Portland film screening to commemorate Revolution in Rojava

It's Goin Down - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 19:31

The post Biji Berxwedan! Portland film screening to commemorate Revolution in Rojava appeared first on It's Going Down.

Occupy a popcorn factory and turn out for this film showing in Portland about the Rojava revolution.

In honor of the 6th anniversary of the beginning of the Rojava Revolution, PDX Rad Movie Night, Portland Rojava Solidarity and Demand Utopia will team up for a showing of the recently released feature film Resistance Is Life. The screening will be taking place at 7PM on Thursday, July 19th at the Social Justice Action Center at 400 SE 12th Ave.

Resistance is Life, or “Berxwedan Jiyane” in Kurdish, is the motto of the spirit in which the people of Kobane persist through months of devastating attacks. Embodying that spirit, Evlin takes us on a journey that introduces the many different faces of this resistance and their heart-wrenching stories.

The film documents the many faces of the resistance over the course of 8 months on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border and provides an inside look at the extraordinary spirit behind the first major victory against ISIS militants.

As always PDX Rad Movie Night aims to create a space for people in the local radical community to come together on regular basis in a setting that isn’t a meeting or protest, and give them the chance to socialize and make connections in a low stress environment. The film will be followed by discussion in small groups about what people thought of the film, and what possible next steps we can do to support the Rojava Revolution locally.

Categories: News

Bonfire Media Collective Crowdfunds Launch

Grassroots Economic Survival - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 16:56

We are a worker-owned business that tells stories to celebrate our shared communities, visions, and victories. We do video, photography, graphic design, social media campaigns, trainings, and communications strategy, and we’ve worked with dozens of clients in the Philadelphia area. After two years of being incubated by the Media Mobilizing Project, we’re ready to become an independent business. 

We’re excited to work with you as Bonfire Media Collective, but we also need your help. Starting a business is expensive, and none of us has the funds to bankroll our expenses out of pocket. That’s why we’re counting on you to help us get off the ground. 

Our goal is to raise $10,000 to help cover our costs to start up, from legal fees, to software and equipment, to rent and utilities. Can you help us get there? [note: as of July, 13th Bonfire Media has raised $10,250.]

Read the rest and support the campaign at GoFundMe


Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

Collective Copies is Hiring!

Grassroots Economic Survival - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 16:31
Link: Collective Copies is hiring!

Full-time, entry-level position available at worker-owned, Union print shop committed to social justice.

Six-month paid-apprenticeship with an opportunity for a permanent, ownership position.

Strong graphic design and communication skills are a must.

Must be available Saturdays and have experience with Adobe Creative Suite.

A fun, creative, and respectful working environment with great benefits including dental, full medical, and company-matching IRA.

Please send cover letter, resume and design samples to amherst at collective copies dot coop


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Categories: News

Will Parents at the Border Be Forced to Separate Again to Win Asylum?

Truth Out - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 15:22

Two days after a court-imposed deadline, the Trump administration said Thursday that just 57 of more than 100 children under the age of 5 have been reunited with their parents after they were separated at the border under the “zero tolerance” policy. This comes as the Trump administration has announced a new asylum policy at the US-Mexico border, which instructs immigration officers to immediately reject asylum seekers who say they are fleeing gangs or domestic violence. We’re joined by Renée Feltz, Democracy Now! correspondent and producer who has long reported on the criminalization of immigrants, family detention, and the business of detention. Her new story for The Nation, reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, is headlined “For Some Migrant Families, a Second Separation Awaits.”

Please check back later for full transcript.

The post Will Parents at the Border Be Forced to Separate Again to Win Asylum? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Activist: Piers Morgan Is an “Idiot” for Criticizing British Anti-Trump Protests

Truth Out - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 15:22

President Donald Trump said Friday that immigrants fleeing violence and seeking asylum in Europe are changing “the fabric of Europe. … And I don’t mean that in a positive way.” Trump’s xenophobic comments came during a shocking interview with the Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloid The Sun. Massive protests have greeted President Trump during his two-day trip to Britain — including a 20-foot-long giant baby Trump blimp outside Parliament. We go to the streets of London to speak with Ash Sarkar, the anti-Trump coalition organizer who confronted Piers Morgan during a “Good Morning Britain” interview Thursday that went viral.

Please check back later for full transcript.

The post Activist: Piers Morgan Is an “Idiot” for Criticizing British Anti-Trump Protests appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Tech Industry’s Push to Hire Autistic Workers Could Lead to Hyper-Exploitation

Truth Out - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 15:18

For autistic people, employment prospects are grim. Using data collected in 2014 and 2015, a Drexel University study found that only 14 percent of autistic adults in the United States hold paying jobs. In 2016, the university reported that while 60 percent of autistic adults who complete vocational training secure jobs, the majority earn poverty-level wages. The issue isn’t limited to the United States: Gainful employment rates for autistic people remain comparatively low in a number of other nations, including the United Kingdom and Australia.

In recent years, major corporations — particularly those in tech — have purported to offer an antidote. Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Yahoo and German software company SAP, among others, have demonstrated a mounting interest in hiring autistic candidates, introducing programs ostensibly designed to recruit them. The logic: At once, these companies address an employment crisis and avail themselves of what Microsoft calls an “untapped” pool of talent.

Efforts to engage people on the autism spectrum interested in pursuing tech careers are, in theory, laudable, especially in light of the current labor landscape. What the work-in-tech narrative elides, however, is these initiatives’ exploitative, paternalistic treatment of the people they claim to exalt.

Conceived as a vehicle of self-actualization in the 1990s, the neurodiversity movement contends that neurological differences such as dyslexia and autism aren’t “disorders,” as much scientific literature classifies them, but natural human variations. More recently, some media outlets have appropriated neurodiversity as a corporate boon. Last year, the Harvard Business Review deemed workers on the autism spectrum a “competitive advantage” for companies, touting such reductive qualities as “loyalty” and “appreciativeness of having been given a chance,” while citing productivity growth and public relations boosts. In 2016, the BBC characterized autistic people as model employees, apt to be “immersed in their work” and attentive to detail. Relatedly, Peter Thiel’s 2014 book Zero to One exhorts companies to hire people on the autism spectrum in order to stimulate “innovation” and thwart “herd-like thinking and behavior.”

These claims, however, serve as a pretext for predatory business practices. Autistic rights activist Elena Chandler told In These Times that the celebration of autistic workers’ putative fealty has an ulterior motive: curtailing turnover. The tech industry has notoriously low rates of employee retention; at Microsoft and Google, the average worker’s tenure falls short of two years, amid such factors as stress and discrimination. Neurotypical people, said Chandler, are commonly “hired at companies like SAP and Microsoft. The company trains them up and helps them develop in the field, and after a few years, they leave and create a competing startup.” Companies seeking autistic people, she added, bank on those candidates’ low likelihood of leaving or asserting their rights as workers — from pay to intellectual property — due in large part to a dearth of alternative job options and limited work experience.

Game developer Ryan Holtz, who has worked for a company acquired by Microsoft, has further concerns. Microsoft, SAP and other companies, he maintains, assume “that people on the autism spectrum will happily work unpaid overtime as long as we’re enjoying ourselves, because we don’t have a social life and so don’t know any better. It belies a patronizing understanding of the autism spectrum.”

Chandler and Shaun Bryan Ford, who are both autistic, have  sought work in the tech industry. After applying for technical writing positions at Microsoft and SAP, Chandler said she heard nothing from either company, despite her Ph.D. and history of working in the field. Ford, a media scholar whose mathematical learning disability precludes him from coding jobs, recently participated in a virtual career fair held by Autism at Work, a hiring initiative spearheaded by SAP and adopted by a number of corporations including Microsoft. In a Medium essay, he detailed what he found to be apathy toward aspirants who weren’t white, male computer scientists. The reason, Ford posits, is that recruiting programs and companies such as Autism at Work and Danish company Specialisterne favor statistically well-paid demographics.

“It’s based on profit for them,” Ford told In These Times. “If they recruit high-wage-earning people from the very beginning to come to Microsoft or these other companies, SAP, etc. … they will get a share of this employee’s productivity from the very beginning.” (Microsoft declined to comment, and SAP didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

Those who progress to the interview incur a separate set of problems. Bucking the conventional approach of formal, conversation-oriented meetings, which may be challenging for people on the autism spectrum, a number of companies have designed formats wherein applicants complete engineering projects with materials like Legos and marshmallows on campus over the course of two or more weeks. While Microsoft and other corporations have garnered plaudits for heeding the needs of autistic people, the companies’ apparent lack of compensation for multiple weeks’ worth of labor goes unaddressed. (This issue has gained increased attention regarding more traditional tech interviews.)

According to Chandler, prospective tech employers place pressure on autistic applicants not only to perform a task competently, but to distinguish themselves via the aforementioned stereotype invoked by Thiel: what she calls a “magic autistic” tendency to “think outside the box.” This expectation thus begets a narrow hiring focus that sets a significantly high bar of ingenuity for people who already struggle to secure work.

If the experiences of Chandler, Holtz and Ford are any indication, these initiatives seek to include only a small fraction of the autistic population. People on the autism spectrum, then, aren’t spared by capitalism’s value system — they’re among those it harms the most profoundly. The agency and liberation of people of marginalized neurotypes doesn’t, and never will, depend on corporate campaigns to turn a chosen few into a new technical underclass, but on a holistic understanding of what it means to have a dignified, fulfilling existence that doesn’t hinge on corporate approval.

“If a corporation can’t use us to make money, we aren’t useful to society. That’s all of us,” said Ford. “Regardless of what it is their capabilities and ‘productivity’ are,” he added, autistic people “should be able to live a good life.”

The post Tech Industry’s Push to Hire Autistic Workers Could Lead to Hyper-Exploitation appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News


Truth Out - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 15:13

The post Backfire appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News