yacht in the ocean, owner probably got a tax break on it

Americans Want The Rich To Pay More Taxes

Tim Ryan Williams, Vox

As debate over Democrats’ Build Back Better Act has intensified, the $3.5 trillion social spending bill has remained strikingly popular in polls. That may be both a blessing and a curse for lawmakers because it’s now clear that the bill will need to shrink to pass. And like Congress, Americans don’t all agree on which of its big-ticket items are most important.

But at least one thing seems clear from public surveys: People want to pay for the bill by taxing the rich.

Vox and Data for Progress poll, conducted October 8-12, found that 71 percent of voters support raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay for the bill. Eighty-six percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans backed the idea. Other tax provisions focused on the wealthy that could be included in the bill — such as tax increases on corporations and capital gains — found 65 percent or more support overall.

Sixty-three percent of voters in the poll said they supported the $3.5 trillion overall plan that includes spending on health care, long-term care, child care, and clean-energy jobs.

majority of likely voters support raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations to pay for the build back better plan

It’s less clear which priorities voters most want to spend that money on. When asked to choose the most and least important parts of the Build Back Better Act’s many policies, taxing the rich was most frequently cited as a top priority, with 13 percent of respondents choosing the measure. (The poll surveyed 1,224 likely voters and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.)

yacht in the ocean, owner probably got a tax break on it
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bag of money bathed in red over a background of scattered pills

These Democrats Keep Drug Prices High To Appease Big Pharma Donors

Robert Reich, Substack

Excuse me but I have to vent.

Three House Democrats and one Democratic senator are now blocking a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Medicare is such a big purchaser of drugs that it has the bargaining leverage to cut drug prices for everyone — if allowed to do so. This would save at least $450 billion over the next 10 years and significantly lower prescription drug prices.

But four Democrats are standing in the way.

Before I get to why they’re doing this, let me identify them. In the House: Scott Peters (whose district includes San Diego), Kurt Schrader (Oregon’s central coast), and Kathleen Rice (central and southern Nassau County on Long Island).

And in the Senate: Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona).

bag of money bathed in red over a background of scattered pills

Okay, so why are these four Democrats blocking this measure?

Not because this policy is unpopular with the public. To the contrary, 88 percent of voters favor allowing the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices, including 77 percent of Republicans.

In fact, at least 90 percent of these four lawmakers’ own constituents support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Get this: The idea is so popular that both Kathleen Rice and Kyrsten Sinema actively campaigned on it.

And not because the pharmaceutical industry needs extra money in order to continue to generate new drugs. Taxpayers already fund much of its basic research through the National Institutes of Health. Also bear in mind that a big portion of the costs of bringing a drug to market goes into advertising and marketing — which shouldn’t even be allowed for prescription drugs (and isn’t in most other rich countries, and wasn’t in the US until Big Pharma lobbied for the law to change).

Oh, and pharmaceutical firms have been overflowing with so much cash they’ve been buying back their own shares of stock.

In other words, allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices should be a no-brainer.

So what gives? The question should be who gives. Follow the money.

From 2019 to 2020, Kyrsten Sinema received over $120,000 in Big Pharma contributions, even though she’s not up for re-election until 2024. Throughout her political career, she’s taken over half a million dollars from Pharma PACs and executives. Just before Sinema officially came out publicly against allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a group bankrolled by Big Pharma began running TV and digital ads and sending mailers praising her for “fighting as an independent voice.”

If you think this was a coincidence, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Scott Peters, meanwhile, happens to be the House’s single biggest recipient of Big Pharma campaign cash in the 2022 election cycle so far. Since being elected in 2012, Peters has socked away over $860,000 from Big Pharma. The day after his letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing using Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices was published in May 2021, Peters began receiving thousands of donations from executives at pharmaceutical companies and the industry’s powerful lobbying group.

Another coincidence? P-l-e-a-s-e.

Kurt Schrader has raked in nearly $615,000 from Big Pharma since taking office in 2008. This election cycle he’s already got $24,500 from Pharma PACS, the second most of any industry donating to him. One of former his top aides left his office earlier this year and is now lobbying for Big Pharma. According to ethics disclosures, the former aide’s lobbying efforts focus on … guess what? Drug pricing.

The third House Democrat, Kathleen Rice, has received over $84,000 from Big Pharma.

The grand total of Big Pharma cash going to these four lawmakers: over $2 million. When you consider the billions that Big Pharma will rake in for keeping drug prices high, this is a small potatoes for them. You might even call it a great investment.

But it’s a huge cost for the rest of us.

The measure isn’t being blocked solely because these four Democrats oppose it. No Republican members of Congress are in support.

But it does seem odd that Democrats would stand in the way of this sort of reform, rebuffing their own president and party — and rejecting the overwhelming preference of voters, including their own constituents — to tank a policy that they themselves campaigned on. I mean, what’s the Democratic Party for if it won’t reduce drug prices for average people? Why were these four Democrats elected in the first place?

Sometimes I worry that pointing out this sort of corruption (and it is a form of corruption) will make people even more cynical than they already are about American politics, resulting in a kind of fatalism or resignation that causes many to give up — and thereby cede the entirety of our democracy to the moneyed interests. My hope is just the opposite: that when people hear about this sort of thing, they’re outraged enough to become even more politically active.

In my experience spanning fifty years of American politics — from interning for Senator Bobby Kennedy in 1967 to serving as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration to advising President Obama — most of the elected lawmakers I’ve dealt with sincerely want to do the right thing. Some don’t feel they can do the right thing if they want to be reelected, and confuse means and ends. A very few are on the take.

By which I mean to say that the situation is hardly hopeless. I refuse to give up on democracy. And I won’t give up on the Democratic Party. But I’m only going to fight for candidates from the Democratic side of the Democratic Party.

What can you do? For one thing, contact your members of Congress and tell them that the first step in getting big money out of politics is to support the Freedom to Vote Act. (You might put in an extra call to Joe Manchin’s office and say you expect him to deliver 10 Republican senators’ votes for this bill — which he helped author — or else agree to reform the filibuster to let voting rights bills be enacted with a bare majority.)

Here’s something else you can do: If you happen to be a constituent of one of these four Democrats, don’t vote for them when they’re up for reelection. Make sure they’re primaried, and then vote in the Democratic primaries for true public servants — who care more about advancing the public good than protecting private profits.

pope francis and an anti nuclear missile sign

Catholics Want The US And Other Nuclear Powers To Disarm

Stephen M. Colecchi, NCR Online

We live in the shadow of a nuclear threat. Studies show that a limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan could result in 1 billion lives lost. A nuclear war between Russia and the United States would be catastrophic for humanity. What are the nations of the world doing about it? What should we as church be doing?

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons entered into force in 1970. It is the mainstay of global nonproliferation and disarmament efforts. Every five years, the vast majority of the world’s nations gather for a review conference. The 2020 review conference has been postponed twice due to COVID-19. The postponement to 2022 may be a blessing, as it gives the nuclear powers more time to make progress.

The last review conference in 2015 did not go well. The 191 states party to the treaty were unable to reach consensus on a final document. This failure was not a good sign. The grand bargain of the treaty is that nations without nuclear weapons agree not to acquire them and the nations with nuclear weapons commit to disarmament.

pope francis and an anti nuclear missile sign
photo by Jeffrey Bruno

The treaty requires non-nuclear-weapons nations to enter into safeguard agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Agency protocols help ensure that a nation’s non-proliferation commitments are being met. Unfortunately, there is no similar global mechanism to hold the nuclear powers accountable for nuclear disarmament.

Article VI of the non-proliferation treaty commits the nuclear weapons states to “negotiations in good faith” to achieve nuclear disarmament. The United States and Russia have negotiated reductions in their arsenals, the latest being the 2010 New START Treaty. The two nations still possess over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. New START capped deployed nuclear warheads at 1,550 each, more than enough to destroy human civilization.

The United States and Russia have not initiated negotiations on further reductions. Further cuts by the two nuclear superpowers are a natural precondition before other nuclear weapons states are likely to agree to multilateral reductions with a goal of “complete disarmament under strict and effective international control,” as envisioned by the non-proliferation treaty.

Ironically, the nuclear powers are modernizing their nuclear arsenals with some developing new nuclear weapons and delivery systems. China is expanding its nuclear arsenal. The United Kingdom recently raised the ceiling of its nuclear warhead stockpile. Prior to the 2015 review conference for the non-proliferation treaty, all of the nuclear weapons states had begun modernizing their nuclear arsenals, including the United States.

Given the actions and inactions of the five nuclear powers that are party to the non-proliferation treaty, is it any wonder that it is difficult for the nations of the world to trust their commitments to disarm? Although the proposal for creating a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East contributed significantly to the failure to reach consensus in 2015, the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament was clearly a major factor.

In 2017, the frustrations of non-nuclear-weapons nations led to a vote by the U.N. General Assembly to “negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.” With impetus from the international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force earlier this year. Predictably, none of the nuclear weapons states support the nuclear ban treaty.

What has been the response of church leaders to the failure of nuclear weapons states to meet their disarmament commitments under the non-proliferation treaty? Church leaders have pursued a two-pronged approach: delegitimizing the possession of nuclear weapons, and advocating for step-by-step disarmament initiatives.

In 1963, Pope John XXIII called for nuclear weapons to be “banned” and for “a suitable disarmament program” (Pacem in Terris).

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI asserted, “In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.” Benedict urged “progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.”

Pope Francis has taken the church’s strategy a step further. Francis has sought to morally delegitimize the possession of nuclear weapons. This process had begun under Benedict, who called the notion of nuclear deterrence ensuring security both “baneful” and “completely fallacious.”

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Gas mask over a scene of cops using tear gas on civilians

Cori Bush Fights Back Against Use of Tear Gas on Civilians

Julia Conley, Common Dreams

Following a call by Rep. Cori Bush to investigate the use of tear gas on civilians by law enforcement, the House Oversight Committee on Thursday released a memo showing that the federal government has never determined the unregulated chemical to be safe for use on humans—despite the fact that manufacturers earn millions of dollars per year providing tear gas to police departments across the country.

Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who chair the Oversight Committee’s panels on economic and consumer policy and civil rights liberties, respectively, released the memo decrying “a complete void in the regulation of tear gas, a weapon that is banned in war yet commonly used against U.S. citizens.”

The memo comes more than a year after the killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin sparked nationwide racial justice protests, where tear gas and other violent crowd control methods were frequently deployed by law enforcement agencies.

“Tear gas is not an inconvenience, it is a weapon of war,” said Bush (D-Mo.), who led civil rights demonstrations near St. Louis following the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014, in a statement Thursday. “I know what it’s like to have tear gas fired at me—my eyes, skin, and lungs burning in the fog of that horrific weapon—and to desperately search for something to relieve the terrible pain.”

“For too long, tear gas has been abused by law enforcement,” the congresswoman added.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), also a member of the Oversight Committee’s civil rights panel, said the widespread use of tear gas shows that “the current design of our law enforcement is militarized.”

According to the two subcommittees’ investigation:

  • The U.S. has not conducted epidemiological research to determine the safety of tear gas when used on humans;
  • Tear gas manufacturers acknowledge that tear gas is dangerous and that “injury and/or damage can be expected”; and
  • Despite knowing the safety risks, manufacturers defer to law enforcement agencies regarding the use of tear gas and “some law enforcement associations eschew strict standards for tear gas use.”

The subcommittees noted that widespread use of tear gas against protesters in the U.S.—including at one protest in June 2020 in Washington, D.C., where former Attorney General William Barr reportedly directed authorities to remove demonstrators, leading to the use of force—persists despite the United Nations’ ban on tear gas in conflict zones.

Raskin and Krishnamoorthi requested information from multiple federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Justice regarding efforts to regulate tear gas, studies on the effects of the chemical on human health, and “the feasibility of establishing universal standards for tear gas products.”

Each agency responded briefly, confirming they do not “regulate tear gas” and are “not aware of any activities or actions regarding tear gas.”

The memo notes that what little research has been done on tear gas was largely conducted around 1950 and only included animals and young men in good health.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this year, one recent survey by Kaiser Permanente Northwest found that hundreds of people exposed to tear gas at protests in Portland last year experienced changes in their menstrual cycles including intense cramping, blood clots, and abnormally long periods.

Gas mask over a scene of cops using tear gas on civilians
Photo by Caravaggibro

Despite those findings, which were made public in April, the federal government has made no moves toward regulating the use of tear gas against civilians.

In contrast, the subcommittees pointed out that “in a 2014 study focused on U.S. Army recruits, scientists found that even young, healthy individuals developed a high risk of acute respiratory illness after exposure to tear gas. As a result, the Army immediately limited exposure concentrations and exposure times.”

“Tear gas is dangerous, and despite this, manufacturers have continued to profit off its sale.”

The investigation also found that three manufacturers of tear gas—Pacem, Combined Systems, and Safariland—generated more than $13 million in revenue between January 2018 and June 2021, selling the product to police departments and corrections facilities.

“Tear gas is dangerous, and despite this, manufacturers have continued to profit off its sale, and law enforcement agencies have had free rein to use it against protesters across the country,” said Bush. “This unregulated, violent, and deadly chemical weapon can cause long-lasting health damage to activists, including asthma, respiratory failure, and even death. It is past time our nation reckoned with its ongoing history of racial, social, economic, and environmental violence.”

In addition to this year’s survey showing widespread menstrual changes in people exposed to tear gas, a 2017 study published in BMC Public Health regarding the use of chemical irritants including tear gas and pepper spray showed that out of 5,910 people exposed around the globe, two died from the exposure and more than five dozen suffered permanent disabilities.

Exposing people engaged in civil disobedience to such potential outcomes, said Bush, violates Americans’ First Amendment rights.

“For protest to truly be a right,” said the congresswoman, “we must ensure that we are never again met with weapons of war on our streets.”

ICBM launches

Report Reveals Top Corporations Who Benefit From US Nuclear Modernization

Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

A short list of contractors that pour large sums of money into campaign contributions, lobbying, and industry-friendly think tanks benefits from the U.S. government’s ongoing, decadeslong “nuclear modernization” plan worth up to $2 trillion, according to a report out Tuesday.

The issue brief—entitled Profiteers of Armageddon: Producers of the next generation of nuclear weapons—was authored by William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy, who also outlined his report in Inkstick.

ICBM launches

Hartung details how the U.S. departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE) are ramping up a plan to build the next generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines as well as warheads, and the beneficiaries are major contractors along with operators of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear weapons complex.

The brief notes the U.S. nuclear weapons budget has climbed in recent years to over $43 billion in the Biden administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, and warns that “this figure will grow dramatically,” pointing to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that parts of the Pentagon’s plan “will cost tens of billions each over the next decade, including $145 billion for ballistic missile submarines, $82 billion for the new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), and $53 billion for the new nuclear-armed bomber.”

“And the costs will not end there,” the report continues, noting that “the estimated lifetime cost of building and operating the new ICBM is $264 billion.”

While “a handful of prime contractors” are the initial recipients and main beneficiaries of public money spent on bombers, missiles, and submarines, “the funds trickle down to subcontractors” that often include other prominent companies. The report names firms such as Bechtel, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.


Hartung directs attention to the millions of dollars in political activities by key contractors, writing that “while not all of this spending is devoted to lobbying on nuclear weapons programs, these expenditures are indicative of the political clout they can bring to bear on Congress as needed to sustain and expand the budgets for their nuclear weapons-related programs.”

From 2012 to 2020, campaign contributions from contractors mentioned in the brief topped $119 million, more than a quarter of which was in the 2020 cycle alone. They also spent $57.9 million on lobbying last year, employing 380 lobbyists, over two-thirds of whom “passed through the ‘revolving door’ from top positions in Congress, the Pentagon, and the Department of Energy to work for nuclear weapons contractors as executives or board members.”

“And it should be noted that the revolving door swings both ways,” the report adds, noting that “three of the past five secretaries of defense worked as lobbyists or board members of major nuclear weapons contractors before taking up their positions in the Pentagon: James Mattis (General Dynamics); Mark Esper (Raytheon); and Lloyd Austin (Raytheon).”

The brief also pushes back against “routinely exaggerated” claims about job creation that both companies and lawmakers use to promote nuclear weapons programs, and points out that contractors pump millions into supporting think tanks that opine on relevant policy.


Continued lobbying for the modernization plan “ignores the fact that building a new generation of nuclear weapons at this time will make the world a more dangerous place and increase the risk of nuclear war while fueling the new arms race,” Hartung argues. “It’s long past time that we stopped allowing special interest lobbying and corporate profits stand in the way of a more sensible nuclear policy.”

While asserting that “the only way to be truly safe from nuclear weapons is to eliminate them altogether,” in line with a global treaty that states with such weapons continue to oppose, Hartung also highlights that “the organization Global Zero has outlined an alternative nuclear posture that would eliminate ICBMs, reduce the numbers of bombers and ballistic missile submarines, and implement a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons as part of a ‘deterrence-only’ strategy that would reduce the danger of a nuclear conflict.”

Global Zero CEO Derek Johnson welcomed Hartung’s brief in a tweet Tuesday.

Earlier this year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Calif.) led the reintroduction of legislation (S.1219/H.R. 2603) to establish that “it is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first,” but the bill has not advanced in Congress, despite pressure from progressive lawmakers and campaigners.

Peace Action of Wisconsin’s Pamela Richard said in August that while activists encourage the passage of Warren and Smith’s bill as well as a related one (S. 1148/H.R. 669) from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), “our long-term goal is total nuclear disarmament.”

John Deere tractor in a field on progressive hub green background

John Deere Workers On Strike After Rejecting Bad Contract Proposal

Jonah Furman, Jacobin

John Deere workers on Sunday overwhelmingly voted down the first tentative agreement negotiated by the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the company. Among the over 90 percent of members voting, 90 percent voted no.

The UAW has announced a new strike deadline of 11:59 PM on Wednesday, October 13. If no new agreement is reached with the company by then, 10,000 Deere workers in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas will walk out.

Members’ frustrations ranged from what they feel are inadequate wage increases to the decision to end the pension for new hires and switch to a “Choice Plus” plan that many felt was scant on details.

Deere is in the midst of its most profitable year ever. The farm equipment manufacturer expects to rake in $5.7 to $5.9 billion in net income this year, far exceeding its previous high of $3.5 billion in 2013.

John Deere tractor in a field on progressive hub green background
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rahm emanuel pointing to the right

Corporations Have Funded The Rehabilitation of Rahm Emanuel

Julia Rock, Andrew Perez, The Daily Poster 

In 2019, Rahm Emanuel left the Chicago mayor’s office in disgrace after the public learned his administration suppressed video of police murdering Black teenager Laquan McDonald. It didn’t take long, however, for the Washington establishment to bring him back into the fold, first welcoming him as a political pundit, and now rewarding him with a potential ambassadorship.

But financial disclosures that Emanuel was required to file after President Joe Biden nominated him for ambassador to Japan shed new light on how corporate interests continued to line Emanuel’s pockets after he left office in Chicago and took to cable news to disparage progressives.

rahm emanuel pointing to the right
Photo by Daniel X. O'Neil, https://www.flickr.com/photos/juggernautco/5172631566

Those disclosures reveal that while he was being paid by ABC News to push a corporate agenda, Emanuel was also being paid millions by a firm that advises companies that stand to win if Biden’s agenda fails. He also received more than $300,000 for speeches to corporations and industry trade groups, and a board seat at a health care company benefiting from privatized Medicare coverage.

Emanuel’s continued presence in elite political and media circles, even after the cover-up of McDonald’s murder was revealed, is a testament to the Beltway’s great moral rot — a reminder that impunity protects those who are loyal and willing to serve capital.

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doctors hand draw a vaccine dose from a vial

Zimbabwe And The World Need More COVID Vaccines

Jeffrey Moyo, Inter Press Service

More than a month ago, she lost her parents, brother, and wife, to the coronavirus. Then her fiancé battled COVID-19, but 27-year-old Melinda Gavi said she had not contracted the disease.

Gavi joined crowds scrambling to get vaccinated at Parirenyatwa hospital in the Zimbabwean capital Harare even though she was previously sceptical about getting vaccinated against the dreaded disease.

Her parents, brother, and wife were equally sceptical of the COVID-19 vaccines before they were visited by the disease, which eventually claimed their lives.

In a country of about 15 million people, nearly 5.5 million have had at least had one dose of the vaccine the Reuters COVID-19 tracker, which assuming that each person needs two doses, represents 18.8% of the population.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed in October that Zimbabwe had received 943 200 COVID-19 vaccine doses from the global COVAX Facility in September and October for its ongoing vaccination campaign.

doctors hand draw a vaccine dose from a vial

IPS has been following the rollout of the vaccines in various centres over the past few months, recording people’s personal experiences in the queues.

Gavi says it has taken her days to get vaccinated.

“This is my third day coming here at Parirenyatwa to try and get vaccinated,” Gavi told IPS as she stood in a long and meandering queue at Zimbabwe’s biggest hospital.

About 200 people gathered at the back of the hospital, some looking tired as they lingered in the queue. Some sat on the pavements and or flower beds, waiting for their turn to get vaccinated in the slow-moving queue.

“We have limited vaccines, and often on a day we are vaccinating just 80 people and everybody else often just goes back home without getting vaccinated,” a nurse who refused to be named as she was unauthorised to speak to the media, told IPS.

In February this year, Zimbabwe began vaccinating its citizens against coronavirus after receiving a donation of 200 000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine.

But when the vaccine first arrived, it was met with growing scepticism from social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook, which fuelled the vaccine hesitancy.

This is no longer the case. Now healthcare workers have to battle hordes of people scrambling for the vaccine.

“With time, as more and more people got vaccinated without severe safety fears, the public became more assured, and demand for vaccines gradually started to rise,” said epidemiologist Dr Grant Murewanhema in Harare.

In Bulawayo, on July 8, in the presence of IPS, at the United Bulawayo Hospital, a nurse moved along the queue of people waiting to get vaccinated, counting up to 60 recipients. She told the rest to return the next day.

She told them she only had enough vaccines for 60 people.

At number 60 was 47-year-old Jimmy Dzingai, who said he was a truck driver.

“Oh, better, at least I am going to get vaccinated,” said Dzingai then as he heaved a sigh of relief, folding his hands across his chest.

Meanwhile, as they were told to leave, others did so but grumbled as they filed outside the hospital, some waving their face masks in anger, shouting at hospital authorities for turning them away.

“This is not the first time I am coming here to try and get vaccinated. I have been here four times, and this is my fifth day starting mid-June – only to get excuses,” 54-year-old Limukani Dlela, a man who said he lived in Matsheumhlope, a low-density suburb in Bulawayo, told IPS saying that at times the excuse was that there not enough vaccines available and at other times there were a limited number of vaccines.

Corruption and nepotism have characterised this Southern African country’s bitter war against COVID-19, and many people like Dzingai, the truck driver, have not been spared by the rot.

As Dzingai stood at the end of the queue, four middle-aged women strode past him and all others, going straight to the head of the queue and quickly got vaccinated and left.

According to one of the nurses who manned the queue, “the four were staff members and couldn’t wait in the queue like everybody else.”

The nurse said this even though the four women, after receiving doses, immediately left the premises just like any other ordinary person.

“I was talking to my bosses right now, and my truck has been loaded for me to take the delivery to Zambia. I have told my bosses I was getting my vaccine. Instead, you are telling me I’m not going to be vaccinated. You should get water to inject me and give me the vaccine certificate. I will not leave this place without the vaccine,” swore the truck driver.

But the nurse would have none of it.

“You won’t be vaccinated today. That won’t happen, unfortunately,” she said.

Dzingai vowed to stay put at the hospital until he was vaccinated, but because the four women who jumped the queue and got vaccinated before him, it meant he (Dzingai) and three others who had waited at the end of the queue had to leave without the jab.

With many Zimbabweans like Dzingai now eager to get vaccinated, the government has so far authorised the use of China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm, Russia’s Sputnik V, and India’s Covaxin and the U.S. Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

It has not, however, been easy for people to get the doses. Now bribery has become the order of the day at Zimbabwe’s hospitals like Sally Mugabe Referral hospital in the capital Harare.

Lydia Gono (24), from Southertorn middle-income suburb in Harare, said she had to ‘switch to her purse’, which is local parlance for a bribe, to get quickly vaccinated at Sally Mugabe hospital, the closest medical facility to her home.

“I spent close to a week trying to get vaccinated here without success, but today I just rolled a US 10 dollar note in my hand and shook the hand of a nurse who manned the queue, leaving the note in her hand. I was taken to the front and vaccinated without any delay,” Gono told IPS.

Tired of the corruption and nepotism and the delaying tactics characterising the vaccination process at public healthcare centres, many middle-income earners like 35-year-old Daiton Sununguro have opted for the private medical centres to get their vaccines parting with US 40 dollars for a single dose.

“Paying is better than having to wait for many hours before getting the vaccine at public healthcare facilities. I will still come back and pay the other US 40 dollars for my second dose,” Sununguro told IPS at a posh private medical facility in Harare’s Mount Pleasant low-density suburb.

COVID-19 Global Solidarity Manifesto To: Policy Makers

Petition Text

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the urgency of changing global structures of inequity and violence. We, people around the world, will seize this historical moment. We are building solidarity at every level: local, national, global. Despite the need to physically distance, we are building mutual aid groups, community networks, and social movements. We declare this manifesto today to offer a vision of the world we are building, the world we are demanding, the world we will achieve.

1. We demand strong, universal health care systems and health care as a basic right for all humans.

2. We demand an immediate global ceasefire in all conflicts and an end to the disease of war. We demand that every nation move at least half its military spending to provide health care, housing, childcare, nutrition, education, Internet access, and other social needs so we can truly protect people’s physical, psychological, and economic security, including through the closure of foreign military bases, the cessation of military exercises, and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

3. We demand that unsustainable capitalist economies, based on the fantasy of endless growth, be replaced with cooperatively based economies of care, where human life, biodiversity, and our natural resources are conserved and a universal basic income is guaranteed so that governments can work together to combat the existential threat of climate change.

4. We demand an immediate lifting of all sanctions targeting entire nations, which are impoverishing vulnerable populations and killing people by blocking access to medicines and medical supplies.

5. We demand that all workers be protected against COVID-19 and have their long-term occupational health, economic, and labor rights guaranteed.

6. We demand the full protection of all people, especially the most vulnerable, including women and other victims of intimate partner violence and child abuse, the elderly, the impoverished, prisoners and detainees, refugees and other displaced peoples, migrants regardless of immigration status, the homeless, LGBTQIA+ individuals, racial/ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and those disability or ability challenged, among others.

7. We demand that wealthy nations live up to their responsibility to provide medical aid (including through the World Health Organization) and debt relief to save lives in countries without strong public health systems because of long histories of colonialism, neocolonialism, and other exploitation, foreign and domestic.

8. We demand that governments and corporations respect privacy and not exploit the pandemic to expand repressive measures such as surveillance, detention without trial, and restrictions on basic human rights to assembly, free expression, self-determination, and the vote.

9. We demand that when governments implement economic stimulus programs and re-open their economies they prioritize the needs of people over the interests of corporate, financial, and political elites.

In a world where the gap between rich and poor is obscene, with the world’s richest 1% having more than twice the wealth of 6.9 billion people, a fundamental redistribution of wealth and power globally and within nations is imperative. Every human being must have the opportunity to live a healthy, creative, and fulfilling life, free of the ravages of poverty, exploitation, and domination.

Why is this important?

A group of around 50 people from more than 12 countries drafted the Manifesto in recent weeks. Many prominent people are supporting it. People in general are more awake to the absurdity of a planet in which the richest 8 people have more wealth than the poorest 3.8 billion than ever before as this pandemic spreads. We are circulating this widely in multiple languages to help frame the debate and actions moving forward, raising global demands that address the inequity resulting from decades of neoliberal economic policies and rampant and unbridled militarism.

a hand bathedi n red pulls a vial of water from a water source to test for poison, stylized

Military Bases Poisoning Groundwater and Food Supply

Pat Elder, MilitaryPoisons.org

In mid-September the DOD released shocking new figures that identify the scale of PFAS contamination in 95 installations from 35 states and Puerto Rico.

The DOD also reported that it sent letters using this template to 2,063 agricultural operations within a mile of 95 bases regarding the likelihood of poisoned groundwater heading their way. Across the country, water used for agricultural purposes contains per-and poly fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), that have been carelessly used and discarded on most military installations since the early 1970’s.

The average installation sent 21 notices. Half of the bases sent 7 or fewer. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported in April, 2020 that PFAS are confirmed or suspected at 678 military installations, according to DOD records. About half of the installations in the new database are reporting newer, elevated numbers.

Sec. 335 of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act required the DOD to provide notification to any agricultural operation located within one mile down gradient of a military installation or National Guard facility where PFOS and PFOA has been detected in groundwater. At the time, the measure was deemed a victory for those in Congress calling for tougher regulatory measures, even though it is recognized that these chemicals may travel 20 miles or further in underground plumes. The DOD was largely off the hook from the git go.

a hand bathedi n red pulls a vial of water from a water source to test for poison, stylized

Spotlight on America, a subsidiary of Sinclair News Group, reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture handed over contact information of more than 50,000 individuals to the DOD for potential notification.

A breakdown of the DOD’s new PFAS results and the numbers of individuals notified for each installation are included in the database. Arnold AFB in Manchester, Tennessee, with a combined total of 175,000 ppt for PFOS+PFOA in groundwater, led the effort with 375 notices sent to local landowners. The base is located in beautiful Coffee and Franklin counties where farmers mostly  grow wheat, corn, and soybeans. Colonel Jeffrey T Geraghty is the Commanding Officer. He ought to be commended.

coffee county tn.png

Although the FDA now says there is nothing to fear regarding PFAS in our food, a study they conducted 20 years ago showed bread from a Sav-a-Lot store in Tennessee contained 14,700 ppt  of PFOA, arguably the most toxic variety of PFAS. Many states limit these substances to under 20 ppt in drinking water.

Apples sold in a store not far from Naval Station Pensacola with PFOS/PFOA levels of 126,300, had concentrations of PFOA above 1,000 ppt. while Linda Birnbaum, the nation’s former top toxicologist argues the limit for PFOA in drinking water ought to be .1 ppt. Research indicates that PFOA in the tiniest levels is linked to pancreatic cancer. An apple a day?

Could the apples be contaminated by the military? Maybe. How about the shrimp and the fish in Pensacola? We won’t know until we conduct truly independent testing. We cannot trust the FDA. They say the fish are fine, while Michigan says the average fish in the Wolverine state contains 80,000 ppt. of PFAS.

The legislation mandating the DOD to send out notices only requires bases to do so if groundwater levels have been detected that exceed 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA combined, and 40,000 ppt for PFBS.

(PFOS is Perfluoro octane sulfonic acid. PFOA is Perfluoro octanoic acid and the randomly selected PFBS is  Perfluoro butane sulfonic acid.)

There are more than 8,000 varieties of these PFAS chemicals, while the same tests that report PFOS, PFOA, and PFBS in groundwater may be used to find concentrations of 36 varieties of PFAS, including many typically used on military installations. Congress and the DOD are content to focus on just three compounds.

Spotlight on America says it tried contacting the DOD more than a dozen times, requesting interviews with the Secretary of Defense as well as leaders of each branch of service. They  put requests into military leadership specifically tasked with handling environmental issues. None would agree to an interview.

I’ve created a spreadsheet using the 95 installations along with the data just released by the DOD as a starting point. I set up rows with numbers from the initial DOD report on PFAS in March, 2018 and the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) interactive map,  PFAS Contamination in the U.S. (October 4, 2021).  The EWG has not reported on the new data.

In the case of eight bases: Castle, Dover, Grissom, Otis-JB Cape Cod, Pease, Warminster, Willow Grove, and Dallas the EWG under-reported the numbers previously provided by the DOD in March, 2018.

The Naval Air Warfare Weapons Station at Point Mugu is a 4,490 acre site on the coast of Southern California, near Ventura. The base is used for missile testing and training.  – photo The Center for Land Use Interpretation.

There were several shockers in the new numbers released by the Pentagon. Until now, the men with the medals on their chests had failed to report on PFAS levels in the groundwater at Point Mugu Naval Air Station in California. Point. Mugu is reported to have 13,407,957 ppt of PFOS and 1,700,000 ppt of PFOA in its groundwater, making it the base with the highest levels of concentrations in groundwater anywhere.  It is very possible that the total of all concentrations of all PFAS compounds is twice the amounts reported, or more than 30 million ppt.

Edwards AFB in California is another shocker. The previously reported combined levels for PFOS/PFOA shot up from 322,000 ppt to 2,900,000 ppt now.

We’ve known for years that Plattsburgh AFB in New York had a combined total of 1,045,000 ppt for PFOS and PFOA. Now the Air Force is reporting concentrations of 1,596,000 ppt for the two compounds in the groundwater, a nightmare for the fragile Lake Champlain region of New York and Vermont. The Air Force sent notices earlier this year to just six landowners nearby, warning them of the potential for poisoned groundwater. What about the lake and its fish?  Why haven’t officials in New York and Vermont taken steps to test the water and fish for these toxins?

There was also a surprise in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a close suburb of Washington, DC. The Air Force had previously reported levels of 30,000 ppt for PFOS and 4,500 ppt for PFOA at Joint Base Andrews, the home of Air Force One. Those numbers were revised upward to 33,000 ppt for PFOS and a staggering 435,000 ppt for PFOA. Only Edwards (1.2 million), Pt. Mugu (1.71 million), England AFB in Alexandria, LA (3.82 million), and Plattsburgh (981,000) had higher numbers for PFOA.

Other surprises include the notorious Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, known for a host of deadly toxins on base and tens of thousands of sick Marines. The Marine Corps had never released numbers on PFAS until now, reporting 172,748 ppt of PFOS in groundwater. The toxins are believed to be a threat to the New River and Atlantic seafood in the region.

Biddle Air National Guard Base in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles north of Philadelphia, broke its silence by reporting 290,000 ppt of PFOS and 7,200 ppt of PFOA. The same is true of Offutt AFB in Bellevue, Nebraska. After being a no-show, Offutt reported 42,000/410,000 for PFOS/PFOA.  Corpus Christi NAS also emerged from darkness to report 155,000/358,000 for the two killer chemicals.

We’ll end with Puerto Rico. Out of nowhere, the shuttered  Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, shared that the level of contamination was 491,401 ppt for PFOS and 351,375 ppt for PFOA in groundwater. They ought to test the seafood. At least they ought to warn the public.

spirit mountain in Nevada

Calls For New National Monument on Indigenous Peoples Day

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service

[Although it is a positive  development that President Joe Biden has become the first President in U.S. history to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, he remains silent as the Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline encroaches on and destroys indigenous land. – Progressive Hub]

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day today, many in Nevada’s Native community are calling for the establishment of a new national monument at Spirit Mountain, known as Avi Kwa Ame, near Searchlight. Multiple tribes derive their creation story from the Avi Kwa Ame area.

Nora McDowell, a project manager for the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe’s Pipa Aha Macav Cultural Center, said the land is her people’s most sacred site.

“The river is our namesake,” she said. “We are the Aha Macav, ‘People of the River.’ The mountains we revere as a place of creation. You could analogize it to the Vatican, Arlington Cemetery, the Wailing Wall. This is our church, this is our place. This is our home.”

On Friday, President Joe Biden restored the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, which had been shrunk by former President Donald Trump. Searchlight resident Kim Garrison Means, an organizer for Avi Kwa Ame, said Biden’s move has injected new hope into the fight to establish a 380,000-acre monument in southern Nevada…

spirit mountain in Nevada
Photo credit Stan Shebs
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