hand holding sign up that reads i stand with planned parenthood

Planned Parenthood Employees’ Push To Unionize Is More Urgent Than Ever

As Minnesota becomes a sanctuary state for abortion seekers, health care workers continue their union drive to improve working conditions and increase pay.

By Sarah Lahm, The Progressive Magazine

When people living in the Upper Midwest lose their right to have an abortion, where will they go?

hand holding sign up that reads i stand with planned parenthood

The reproductive health care landscape isn’t much better in Wisconsin, where abortions have also halted in the aftermath of the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, as an anti-abortion law from the nineteenth century was reinstated and is casting doubt on the future of abortion access in the state.

Abortions remain legal in Iowa for now, but that could change quickly. As Lina-Maria Murillo, assistant professor of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies at the University of Iowa, noted in a recent public radio interview, there is a twenty-four-hour waiting period for abortions in Iowa right now that will “likely turn into an all-out ban.”

As a result, many more patients in need of an abortion will likely be headed to Minnesota. It’s good that Minnesota will continue to be a refuge in this way, but this situation also raises some important questions. For instance, when these patients arrive, who will take care of their medical needs?

Currently, a key source of reproductive health care in the Upper Midwest comes from Planned Parenthood North Central States (PPNCS), an affiliate of the national Planned Parenthood organization.

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nuclear bombs falling across the globe

Nuclear War Could Mean Annihilation, But Biden And Congress Are Messing Around

The Biden administration hasn’t just remained mum about current nuclear war dangers — it’s actively exacerbating them.

By Norman Solomon, Truthout

President Joe Biden and top subordinates have refused to publicly acknowledge the danger of nuclear war — even though it is now higher than at any other time in at least 60 years. Their silence is insidious and powerful, and their policy of denial makes grassroots activism all the more vital for human survival.

nuclear bombs falling across the globe

In the aftermath of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy was more candid. Speaking at American University, he said: “A single nuclear weapon contains almost 10 times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War.” Kennedy also noted, “The deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.” Finally, he added, “All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours.”

Kennedy was no dove. He affirmed willingness to use nuclear weapons. But his speech offered some essential honesty about nuclear war — and the need to seriously negotiate with the Kremlin in the interests of averting planetary incineration — an approach sorely lacking from the United States government today.

At the time of Kennedy’s presidency, nuclear war would have been indescribably catastrophic. Now — with large arsenals of hydrogen bombs and what scientists know about “nuclear winter” — experts have concluded that a nuclear war would virtually end agriculture and amount to omnicide (the destruction of human life on earth).

In an interview after publication of his book The Doomsday Machine, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg summed up what he learned as an insider during the Kennedy administration:

What I discovered — to my horror, I have to say — is that the Joint Chiefs of Staff contemplated causing with our own first strike 600 million deaths, including 100 million in our own allies. Now, that was an underestimate even then because they weren’t including fire, which they found was too incalculable in its effects. And of course, fire is the greatest casualty-producing effect of thermonuclear weapons. So the real effect would’ve been over a billion — not 600 million — about a third of the Earth’s population then at that time.

Ellsberg added:

What turned out to be the case 20 years later in 1983 and confirmed in the last 10 years very thoroughly by climate scientists and environmental scientists is that that high ceiling of a billion or so was wrong. Firing weapons over the cities, even if you call them military targets, would cause firestorms in those cities like the one in Tokyo in March of 1945, which would loft into the stratosphere many millions of tons of soot and black smoke from the burning cities. It wouldn’t be rained out in the stratosphere. It would go around the globe very quickly and reduce sunlight by as much as 70 percent, causing temperatures like that of the Little Ice Age, killing harvests worldwide and starving to death nearly everyone on Earth. It probably wouldn’t cause extinction. We’re so adaptable. Maybe 1 percent of our current population of 7.4 billion could survive, but 98 or 99 percent would not.

Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine four months ago, the risks of global nuclear annihilation were at a peak. In January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its Doomsday Clock at a mere 100 seconds from apocalyptic Midnight, compared to six minutes a decade ago. As Russia’s horrific war on Ukraine has persisted and the U.S. government has bypassed diplomacy in favor of massive arms shipments, the hazards of a nuclear war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers have increased.

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A Crumbling statue effigy of the Statue of Liberty crumbles outside of Gary's City Hall

Many See Democracy In Peril As U.S. Celebrates Independence Day

Nearly 60% of Americans think the U.S. is becoming a less democratic country.

By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service

It’s July 4th, a celebration of the United States’ independence. It’s also an opportunity to take a look at the state of the country’s democracy.

A Crumbling statue effigy of the Statue of Liberty crumbles outside of Gary's City Hall

This is a midterm election year, but many are still focused on the 2020 election, which some have claimed – without evidence – was “stolen.”

Alicia Abbott, a program outreach coordinator with the Idaho 97 Project, said one unfortunate side effect of rampant misinformation is that some voters have tuned out.

“We’ve let misinformation about election results and public health run amok,” said Abbott. “And now, we are living in an era where people are very apathetic; they are overwhelmed with how much contention there is in the scorched-earth politics.”

The Idaho 97 Project formed in 2020 in response to contentious public health meetings about COVID-19 in order to combat disinformation about the pandemic.

According to a recent Yahoo survey, nearly 60% of Americans think the U.S. is becoming a less democratic country.

Abbott said Idaho is no stranger to extremism. She said it’s a bellwether for some of the extreme tactics, especially at local government meetings, that have spread across the country.

So, she said she’s also convinced it can serve as model for how to push back against these anti-democratic forces.

“So, we all need to be very vigilant about recognizing dog whistles and conspiracy theories,” said Abbott. “And really holding our elected officials accountable when they’re repeating and forwarding disinformation.”

As the congressional hearing on the January 6 insurrection continues, Abbott said she’s been struck by the way election officials in some states were treated in 2020.

She said one thing Idahoans can do to help defend democracy is support these officials.

“Stand up for those public servants who are coming forward and ensuring that our political process is safe and secure,” said Abbott. “We cannot continue to allow our public servants to be attacked the way they have been.”

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

BETHLEHEM, PALESTINIAN TERRITORY - NOVEMBER 20 Israeli soldiers fire tear gas in Bethlehem, West Bank, during Palestinian protests against Israeli attacks on Gaza, November 20, 2012

After Abu Akleh’s Murder, Media Continued To Obscure Israeli Violence

The U.S. promised a full investigation, but nothing has happened so far despite overwhelming evidence showing she was murdered by Israeli forces.

By Robin Andersen, FAIR.org

On May 13, two days after the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli Occupation Forces, as her loss still dominated international news cycles, thousands of Palestinian mourners gathered to pay tribute to the woman who had given them voice for so long. They came to lay her body to rest.

BETHLEHEM, PALESTINIAN TERRITORY - NOVEMBER 20 Israeli soldiers fire tear gas in Bethlehem, West Bank, during Palestinian protests against Israeli attacks on Gaza, November 20, 2012

Immediately, as the funeral procession was just starting, images emerged of Israeli forces attacking the pallbearers as they attempted to carry her coffin across the courtyard from the French hospital in East Jerusalem. One of the first reports came from British-Egyptian correspondent Emir Nader with BBC News investigations, who posted footage and said on Twitter (5/13/22): “Horrible scenes as Israeli security forces beat the funeral procession for slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the crowd momentarily lose control of her casket.”

Al Jazeera carried the funeral live on air, and the footage showing the attack was widely shared over social media. One Twitter user (5/13/22) described the video, referring to the IOF, or Israeli Occupation Force:

Everyone switch on to Al Jazeera right now. This is one of the most horrifying things I’ve seen. IOF is attacking mourners carrying Shireen’s body from the hospital right now. They’re using stun grenades and tear gas and charging at them with horses and batons.

The Intercept (5/13/22) noted the footage that unfolded on live television, stunned viewers and only “intensified the outrage over her death.” Video was quickly remixed and shared, and the article linked a 45-second video on Twitter (5/13/22) posted by Rushdi Abualouf, a Palestinian journalist working for the BBC. Described as “the closest video” of the attack, it mixed Arab instrumental music over a slowed version that show helmeted, uniformed riot police singling out pallbearers and smashing bare arms with batons as mourners struggled to keep the casket upright.

The language of obfuscation

Mirroring the euphemism-dominated coverage of Abu Akleh’s killing (FAIR.org, 5/20/22), many of the first corporate press reports employed language that mystified what was happening at the funeral.

MintPressNews editor Alan MacLeod recognized the language of obfuscation, posting a series of news headlines on Twitter (5/13/22) that transformed black-clad Israeli riot squads wantonly beating pallbearers into “clashes.” Referring to an article he wrote for FAIR (12/13/19), MacLeod (5/14/22) observed that the word “clash” is used by media “when they have to report on violence, but desperately want to obscure who the perpetrators are.”

Violence comes from nowhere, it simply erupts: CBS‘s headline (5/13/22) was, “Shireen Abu Akleh Funeral Sees Clashes Between Israeli Forces and Palestinian,” updated later that day to report that “Violence Erupts” at the funeral as Israeli forces “Confront” mourners. The Times of Israel (5/13/22) had “Violence Erupts as Journalist’s Casket Emerges From Jerusalem Hospital.” And the BBC (5/13/22) went with “Shireen Abu Akleh: Violence at Al Jazeera Reporter’s Funeral in Jerusalem.”

CBS‘s language prompted one Twitter user (5/13/22) to wonder about

the best term for lies by omission, untruths couched in deliberately obfuscating language. Perhaps “willfully misleading”? Denial of facts, even gaslighting, given the footage circulating of attacks on pallbearers….

An exception was a report from Jerusalem by Atika Shubert for CNN (5/13/22) headlined, “Video Shows Israeli Police Beating Mourners at Palestinian-American Journalist’s Funeral Procession.” It opened:

Israeli police used batons to beat mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh…. Tear gas was fired by Israeli forces and at least one flash bomb was used.

Mondoweiss (5/13/22) pointed out that the “White House says it ‘regrets the intrusion’ into Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral, but it doesn’t condemn Israeli police actions.”

Repression as retaliatory

Reporting went from bad to worse when the Israeli government issued an official statement claiming that police had to respond to Palestinian violence. Many Western news outlets repeated the claims.

Under an early BBC video (5/13/22), after “clashes broke out” and “violence erupted,” the text read, “Projectiles are seen flying towards the police, who also fired tear gas,” and then, “Israeli police said officers at the scene were pelted with stones and ‘were forced to use riot dispersal means.’”

In a later, longer version, the BBC text (5/13/22) opened with, “Police said they acted after being pelted with stones,” and repeated, “Police said officers ‘were forced to use riot dispersal means.’” The body of the text included on-the-ground reporting that accurately described what happened, only to be followed with more back-and-forth accusations.

The descriptive reporting on the funeral attack and Israeli brutality, followed with patched, confused “balance” between Palestinian and Israeli statements–contention often going back decades–began to characterize coverage. This style of journalism presents repression surrounded in a fog of inevitability, rendering even eyewitness accounts inexplicable, without context or solution.

As many reports repeated Israeli justifications for the attacks, presenting Israeli state repression as retaliatory, the Intercept (5/13/22) refuted the official Israeli version, showing how it fabricated Palestinian violence.

On Twitter (5/13/22), activist Rafael Shimunov explained how the Israeli police account used drone video to “prove” that two of the mourners had thrown rocks at police:

But a comparison of that video to ground-level news footage showed that the police video had been edited to remove the initial police charge and slowed down to make it seem as if a man who just waved his arms in frustration had thrown something at the officers.

Shimunov concluded that the mourner had no stone, his “action was putting his body between them and Shireen Abu Akleh’s casket.” He added: “To be clear, no stone justifies attacking mourners at a funeral of a journalist assassinated by your military.”

‘This isn’t a tussle’

All the media techniques come together on a CBS video posted on Twitter (5/13/22), with overlaid text saying police “clashed” with mourners, and that the “tussling” was so bad they almost dropped the coffin. “Projectiles could be seen flying through the air as Palestinians chanted anti-Israeli slogans,” the network declared.

The response on Twitter was outrage. One user (5/13/22) replied:

This isn’t a tussle or push back. This is an occupying force abusing its power. The sooner @CBSNews calls it how it is, the sooner we can pressure change. Do better.

Another “fixed” the headline, changing “clashes” to “attacking,” and switching Abu Akleh being “killed” to “assassinated.” Another Twitter used said, “These are violent occupiers (who killed journalists prior #ShireenAbuAkleh) invading a funeral… not a ‘tussle.’” Yet another asked:

Oh clashing was it? Clashing? Very interesting choice of words for being attacked by armored thugs during a peaceful memorial for a journalist those armored thugs also murdered.

Another tweeter was “imagining the headline ‘Ukrainians left dead in Bucha after clashes with Russian forces.’”

Posting an unedited video in response to CBS, a user asked: “Why was this clip cut?… to falsify the facts of course.”

In fact, the actual footage was stunning for its clear view of one-sided violence—beginning unmistakably when helmeted Israeli forces stormed the crowd and began to beat pallbearers with batons. The pallbearers stumble and are sometimes ripped from their positions, but they never retaliate. One tries to shield his head with his arm. A man wearing jeans, tennis shoes and a sleeveless shirt kicks at the helmeted, uniformed police, trying to stop them from hitting the pallbearers. Those carrying the coffin do all they can to prevent it from falling, ignoring the blows.

Al Jazeera (5/12/22) interviewed Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, who said that Israel has a track record of creating ambiguity over social media as a strategy to “muddy the waters,” knowing that many press accounts will repeat their claims.

‘Incitement’ or expression?

Explaining the funeral attacks, the Intercept (5/13/22) reported, Israeli police “said they attacked the procession because mourners waved Palestinian flags and chanted nationalist slogans.”

NPR (5/13/22) also reported, “Police said the crowd at the hospital was chanting ‘nationalist incitement,’ ignored calls to stop and threw stones at police.” It added, citing police, that “the policemen were forced to act.” NPR went on to explain why police raided Shireen’s family home, saying they “went” there “the day she was killed and have shown up at other mourning events in the city to remove Palestinian flags.”

The CBS video (5/13/22) posted on Twitter overlaid with text also read, “Al Jazeera said Israel had warned her brother to limit the size of the funeral and told him no Palestinian flags should be displayed and no slogans chanted.” They followed with, “The network said he neglected to take that guidance given the outpouring of grief and anger over the reporter’s killing.”

No comment is made about Israeli repression of Palestinian freedom of expression. “Neglected” and “guidance” are unlikely choices of words from Al Jazeera, given that the network published a scathing piece (5/12/22) slamming Western media coverage for obscuring and denying Israel’s murder of its journalist, calling it a “whitewash.” Al Jazeera has assigned a legal team to refer the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces to the International Criminal Court (Al Jazeera, 5/27/22).

Though CNN journalist Atika Shubert (5/13/22), reporting from the funeral, acknowledged Israeli attacks, she ended by saying that the family was “told not to display the Palestinian flag, that was a special request, but as you can imagine, it’s very difficult to control these crowds,” and the flags were flying. The “request” was a raid on Abu Akleh’s family home, where flags were forcibly removed. Restrictions on flying the Palestinian flag are normalized within these stories, not exposed as violations of human rights and freedom of expression.

When US media routinely repeat without comment Israeli “reasons” for “clamping down” on any display of support for Palestinian statehood, or that Palestinians were “chanting nationalistic slogans,” amounting to “incitement,” they condone the repression of Palestinian rights, which would cause other countries to be called dictatorships, or at least authoritarian regimes. Yet Israel is still listed as a democracy. As Nolan Higdon (5/28/22) pointed out, “You Can Kill and Censor Journalists or You Can have Democracy—You Can’t Have Both!” Such attitudes toward Israeli repression of Palestinian expression are a major contradiction by US media institutions, which themselves enjoy press freedoms and should be able to recognize when those freedoms are being violated.

Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian American and Columbia University professor, told FAIR that US media are “terrified of being attacked if they don’t repeat the Israeli versions of events. They live in constant fear. This happens on the ground, and during editing.” These practices were confirmed in an article published in Slate (5/22/21) last year, when a journalist admitted having trouble “reporting the truth” from Gaza.

‘System of domination’

There are rules for occupying forces articulated by the International Committee of the Red Cross on Occupation and International Humanitarian Law (4/8/04); these prohibit the collective punishment of occupied peoples. Violent repression of nationalist slogans and the Palestinian flag violates the International Declaration of Human Rights, rights which are established for those living under occupation.

Writing for Common Dreams (5/23/22), the Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis and Princeton’s Richard Falk noted that Israeli forces “threw Palestinian flags to the ground and violently beat mourners—including the pallbearers.” They placed the attacks into a context of “the structural nature of Israeli violence against Palestinians,” citing an Amnesty International report on Israeli violence in the Occupied Territories characterizing it as a “Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity.”

The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and the supposedly defensive attacks on mourners are part of a “pattern of repression…far more pervasive,” and in fact codified in the country’s Law of 2018, which grants only Jewish citizens the right of self-determination. Along with AmnestyHuman Rights Watch and B’tselem, Bennis and Falk concluded that this “constitutes the crime of apartheid.”

This point was made visually online by Tony Karon (Twitter, 5/13/22) , a lead editorial writer at Al Jazeera, who set pictures of South African apartheid next to Israeli attacks on the funeral with the text:

African police in ‘87 attacking the coffin of Ashley Kriel to seize the ANC flag that draped it: Israeli police attacked the coffin of #ShireenAbuAkleh today, trying to seize Palestinian flags. Apartheid regimes waging war on their victims, even after death.

US responsibility

For decades, the United States has unconditionally provided Israel with “political, diplomatic, economic and military support,” Bennis and Falk wrote. Military subsidies alone amount to about $3.8 billion every year, “most of it used to purchase US-made weapons systems, ammunition and more. This makes the US complicit in Israel’s criminal wrongdoing.”

With 20% of Israeli’s military budget supplied by the US, “the bullet or the gun used to kill Shireen could have even been purchased from US weapons manufacturers with our own money.” The use of US military aid for repression is a violation of US law:

The Leahy Law’s restriction on military aid is unequivocal: “No assistance shall be furnished,” it says, “to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

To date, there have been six investigations into the killing of Abu Akleh, all that find conclusive evidence that the journalist was killed by Israeli Forces. “A reconstruction by the Associated Press lends support to assertions” from both the Palestinian Authority and Abu Akleh’s colleagues, the news service (5/24/22) reported, “that the bullet that cut her down came from an Israeli gun.” CNN (5/26/22) explained, “There were no armed clashes in the vicinity,” and the text over a map reads, “Footage from the scene showed a direct line of sight towards the Israeli convoy.”

Demanding the fatal bullet

Much has been made of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, and the Israeli demands that it must be turned over to them (New York Times, 5/12/22). This offers a last talking point for Israeli’s claim that Palestinian fighters are responsible for shooting her.

For example, when Reuters (5/26/22) reported on the investigations into her killing, it added Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s response on Twitter (5/26/22): “Any claim that the IDF intentionally harms journalists or uninvolved civilians is a blatant lie.” Reuters also included his demand that the Palestinian Authority hand over the bullet for ballistic tests to see if it matched an Israeli military gun.

Palestinian tests, noted by Reuters (5/27/22), have determined that the bullet that killed Abu Akleh “was a 5.56 mm round fired from a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle, which is used by the Israeli military.” But Reuters followed that with the Defense minister’s claim that the “same 5.56 caliber can also be fired from M-16 rifles that are carried by many Palestinian militants,” adding: “Al-Khatib did not say how he was sure it had come from an Israeli rifle.”

As Khalidi pointed out, “Anything the Israelis say, even about an investigation, will be repeated, you will still get the Israeli version—that in the name of balance.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (5/26/22) cited the numerous reports, including the findings of the Dutch-based Bellingcat Investigative Team, confirming Israeli culpability, and joined 33 other press freedom and human rights groups calling for an independent investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing.

‘The world knows very little’

Yet on June 3, 2022, the New York Times’ editorial board wrote, “The world still knows very little about who is responsible for her death.” The wordy piece repeated every Israeli talking point, including the justification of the funeral attack, saying Israeli police “appeared to want to prevent” the funeral from becoming a “nationalist rally,” and said the officers had acted against a mob “in violation of a previously approved plan.” In other words, pallbearers and mourners were attacked for expressing political opinions and allowing Palestinian society to participate in the burial of Abu Akleh.

The Middle East Eye (6/8/22) reported that when Abby Martin, host of the Empire Filesconfronted Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, she asked why there has been “absolutely no repercussions” for Israel over Abu Akleh’s killing. Blinken responded that the facts had “not been established” in the killing of the veteran Al Jazeera journalist, yet no independent investigation has been started.

Washington Post reporters (6/12/22) reviewed the audio, video, social media and witness testimony of Abu Akleh’s killing, and confirmed that an Israeli soldier likely shot and killed her. Mondoweiss (6/12/22) reported the findings, expressing hope that the report would “add pressure on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to actually demand an independent investigation and accountability.”

Yet even though the Post’s editorial board (6/13/22) referred its its own reporter’s investigation as “impressive,” it still called on the Palestinian Authority to agree to a joint investigation with Israel, with US participation. In what amounts to an attempt to control the narrative about Abu Akleh’s killing, the Post editorial cited “emotional” reasons for refusing to back calls for an international investigation, saying, “We’re skeptical such an impartial inquiry is possible given the high emotions, and low trust, that permeate global discussion of the Middle East.”

On June 14, 2022, journalist Dalia Hatuqa, who covers Israeli/Palestinian affairs, told Slate’s Mary Harris (6/14/22) that Blinken had promised Shireen’s famliy that there would be a full investigation, then she continued: “But honestly, nothing’s happened. It’s been a month. It’s not that hard: There’s footage, eyewitnesses, all kinds of stuff. This isn’t a mystery.”

healthcare.gov website

The ACA Marketplace Is A Scam Covered With The Veneer of “Choice”

Purchasing health insurance on the marketplace is so confusing that it is impossible for consumers to make rational choices.

By Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs

Until now, I was fortunate enough not to need the HealthCare.gov insurance marketplace. My university paid for my health insurance, and the coverage was excellent, and I didn’t realize how good I had it. But then I graduated and had to find insurance on my own. Having now tried to navigate my options on the website that infamously cost $2 billion to make, I have some fresh perspective on why the American health insurance system is utterly dysfunctional and unacceptable.

healthcare.gov website

The first thing you realize when you try to choose a plan on the marketplace is that it is extremely difficult to figure out which health insurance plans will be best for you. For instance, I was presented with 41 different plans. There were bronze, silver, and gold plans (bronze mostly being plans with low monthly payments and high costs for treatment, gold tending to be the opposite). Some plans had “star ratings” supposedly indicating the quality of the user experience, but most didn’t. While the most obvious variables among plans are the monthly premiums and the annual deductibles (for non-American readers, that’s the amount you have to pay each year out of pocket before the insurance actually pays for your care, in addition to the monthly costs), it’s not really clear whether it’s a better deal to pay more per month and have less to pay for treatment, or to pay less per month and have more to pay for treatment. After all, that depends on whether I think I’m likely to get sick in the next year, and the thing about illness is that it’s very hard to anticipate. Will I get into an accident in the next year that requires me to go to the hospital? Well, I don’t really know, do I?

Having to figure out whether to gamble on a low-premium, high-deductible plan or a high-premium, low-deductible plan would be difficult enough on its own. But when you start to look closely at your options on the marketplace, the whole thing gets much, much more confusing. If you’re trying to figure out what care will cost under different plans, and select one rationally, what you will quickly realize is that this is literally impossible. 

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protest sign that says tax the rich featuring monopoly man face

Tax the Rich, House The Homeless

In L.A., 1 percenters currently pay less than a 1 percent city tax on the mansions they make millions selling.

By Sam Pizzigati, Inequality.org

Almost 80 years ago, in 1943, Los Angeles introduced the rest of the United States to the phenomenon of smog. At one point that year, the haze had visibility down a frightening three city blocks.

protest sign that says tax the rich featuring monopoly man face

In L.A. these days, “fine inhalable particulate matter” doesn’t pose much of a problem in the city’s plushest environs. But the neighborhoods L.A.’s low-income families call home still suffer from rates of air pollution that dwarf the levels in more comfortable quarters.

What’s going to fix this distinctly unequal state of atmospheric affairs? How about a step toward a more equal state of economic affairs — and L.A. voters might just be about to take that step. On the citywide ballot this November: a landmark new tax on the rich that will kick in every time a local mansion changes hands.

All the proceeds from this new tax on the turnover of properties worth over $5 million will go to creating safe and secure housing opportunities for L.A. families of limited financial means.

No one knows exactly how much the proposed new city ordinance will raise, if passed, but the take from the new tax figures to be substantial. The grassroots coalition behind the initiative, Unite to House LA, is estimating that had its proposed tax measure been in effect over one recent 12-month period, the city would have cleared some $800 million in new revenue.

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the pentagon

Pentagon Increases In 2022 Could Almost Fund Build Back Better

The NDAA is expected to receive a full vote in July. It’s not too late for members of Congress to change course on Pentagon increases.

By Lindsay Koshgarian, National Priorities Project

Remember Build Back Better? Way back in December, President Biden and advocates across a wide spectrum of issues fought to fund the president’s signature plan, which included major new investments in clean energy, child care and preschool, health care, and financial help for struggling families. It ultimately failed due to one Senator’s claimed concerns about spending and the national debt.

the pentagon

That was a whole six months ago. In that time, the president and Congress together have moved forward on $143 billion in increased funding for the Pentagon and war.

The annual cost of Build Back Better? That would have been $170 billion per year.

The Pentagon increases have been a joint project of Congress and the administration.

First, Congress approved a FY 2022 Pentagon budget of $782 billion, $40 billion higher than the $742 billion FY 2021 budget that was in effect in December.

Then, President Biden released his budget request, asking for $813 billion in FY 2023 for the Pentagon and war. While the president’s request has no legal authority, this year it’s expected that Congress will approve that much, and more. That brought the total increases in Pentagon spending to $71 billion compared to December.

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small town sign reads donate water here for flint

Michigan Supreme Court Kills Flint Water Charges Against Officials

“We thought that the pain our families faced and the trauma we shared would lead to accountability at the end of this horrendous journey.”

By Institute for Public Accuracy

The AP reports in “Court kills Flint water charges against ex-governor, others” that: “The Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out charges against former Gov. Rick Snyder and others in the Flint water scandal, saying a judge sitting as a one-person grand jury had no power to issue indictments under rarely used state laws.

small town sign reads donate water here for flint

“It’s an astonishing defeat for Attorney General Dana Nessel, who took office in 2019, got rid of a special prosecutor and put together a new team to investigate whether crimes were committed when lead contaminated Flint’s water system in 2014-15.“State laws ‘authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants’ as a grand juror, the Supreme Court said.“‘But they do not authorize the judge to issue indictments,’ the court said in a 6-0 opinion written by Chief Justice Bridget McCormack.“She called it a ‘Star Chamber comeback,’ a pejorative reference to an oppressive, closed-door style of justice in England in the 17th century.”

In response, Flint Rising, released a statement: “We at Flint Rising are disgusted with the Michigan Supreme Court ruling that tosses out the indictments of former Governor Rick Synder, Nick Lyon, Richard Baird, Dr. Eden Wells, Darnell Earley, Gerald Ambrose, Jarrod Agen, Howard Croft and Nancy Peeler, the state and local officials responsible for the Flint water crisis. This leaves no one criminally responsible for poisoning 100,000 people in one of the largest public health disasters in this nation’s history.

“It has been 2,986 days since the start of the Flint water crisis. Throughout the years, we’ve sent buses of Flint residents to our state and nation’s capital, shared our stories, marched in the streets, and fought for reparations for our community. Before Flint, it wasn’t common knowledge that drinking water was a source for lead exposure. Our narratives and organizing drove revisions to [the] Lead and Copper Rule at the state and federal level. We were successful in leveraging our advocacy into making lead service line replacement a reality for communities across the country through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“Yet no one has been held accountable. We thought that the pain our families faced and the trauma we shared would lead to accountability at the end of this horrendous journey. We held onto the elusive hope that someone would be held criminally responsible. This is the second time that the promise of accountability has been snatched away from poisoned Flint residents. It has become increasingly clear that the judicial system is not a viable option for a poor majority Black community facing injustice.” See full statement.

us army soldier in front of zambia flag

U.S. Military Extends Its Reach Into Zambia

An interview with Dr. Fred M’membe of the Socialist Party.

By Vijay Prashad, Independent Media Institute

On April 26, 2022, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced that they had set up an office in the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. According to AFRICOM Brigadier General Peter Bailey, Deputy Director for Strategy, Engagement and Programs, the Office of Security Cooperation would be based in the U.S. Embassy building. Social media in Zambia buzzed with rumors about the creation of a U.S. military base in the country. Defense Minister Ambrose Lufuma released a statement to say that “Zambia has no intention whatsoever of establishing or hosting any military bases on Zambian soil.” “Over our dead bodies” will the United States have a military base in Zambia, said Dr. Fred M’membe, the president of the Socialist Party of Zambia.

us army soldier in front of zambia flag

Brigadier General Bailey of AFRICOM had met with Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema during his visit to Lusaka. Hichilema’s government faces serious economic challenges despite the fact that Zambia has one of the richest resources of raw materials in the world. When Zambia’s total public debt grew to nearly $27 billion (with an external debt of approximately $14.5 billion), it returned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in December 2021 for financial assistance, resulting in an IMF-induced spiral of debt.

Two months after Hichilema met with the AFRICOM team, he hosted IMF Deputy Managing Director Antoinette M. Sayeh in June, who thanked President Hichilema for his commitment to the IMF “reform plans.” These plans include a general austerity package that will not only cause the Zambian population to be in the grip of poverty but will also prevent the Zambian government from exercising its sovereignty.

Puppet Regime

Dr. M’membe, president of the Socialist Party, has emerged as a major voice against the United States military presence in his country. Defense Minister Lufuma’s claim that the United States is not building a base in Zambia elicits a chuckle from M’membe. “I think there is an element of ignorance on his part,” M’membe told me. “This is sheer naivety. He [Lufuma] does not understand that practically there is no difference between a U.S. military base and an AFRICOM office. It’s just a matter of semantics to conceal their real intentions.”

The real intentions, M’membe told me, are for the United States to use Zambia’s location “to monitor, to control, and to quickly reach the other countries in the region.” Zambia and its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, “possess not less than 70 percent of the world’s cobalt reserves. There are huge copper reserves and other minerals needed for modern technologies [in both these countries].” Partly, M’membe said, “this is what has heightened interest in Zambia.” Zambia is operating as a “puppet regime,” M’membe said, a government that is de jure independent but de facto “completely dependent on an outside power and subject to its orders,” M’membe added, while referring to the U.S. interference in the functioning of the Zambian government. Despite his campaign promises in 2021, President Hichilema has followed the same IMF-dependent policies as his unpopular predecessor Edgar Lungu. However, in terms of a U.S. base, even Lungu had resisted the U.S. pressure to allow this kind of office to come up on Zambian soil.

After news broke out about the establishment of the office, former Zambian Permanent Representative to the African Union, Emmanuel Mwamba, rushed to see Hichilema and caution him not to make this deal. Ambassador Mwamba said that other former presidents of Zambia—Lungu (2015-2021), Michael Sata (2011-2014), Rupiah Banda (2008-2011) and Levy Mwanawasa (2002-2008)—had also refused to allow AFRICOM to enter the country since its creation in 2007.

Is This a Base or an Office?

Zambia’s Defense Minister Lufuma argues that the “office” set up in Lusaka is to assist the Zambian forces in the United Nations Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Since 2014, the United States has provided around 136 million kwacha ($8 million) to assist the Zambian military. Lufuma said that this office will merely continue that work. In fact, Zambia is not even one of the top five troop contributing countries to MINUSCA (these include Bangladesh, Cameroon, Egypt, Pakistan and Rwanda). Lufuma’s reason, therefore, seems like a fig leaf.

Neither Zambia nor the United States military has made public the agreement signed in April. The failure to release the text has led to a great deal of speculation, which is natural. Meanwhile, in Ghana, where a defense cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries in May 2018, the United States had initially said that it was merely creating a warehouse and an office for its military, which then turned out to mean that the United States military was taking charge of one of the three airport terminals at Accra airport and has since used it as its base of operations in West Africa. “From the experience of Ghana, we know what it is,” M’membe told me, while speaking about the American plan to make an office in the U.S. Embassy in Zambia. “It is not [very] different from a base. It will slowly but surely grow into a full-scale base.”

From the first whiff that the United States might create an AFRICOM base on the continent, opposition grew swiftly. It was led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and his Defense Minister at that time, Mosiuoa Lekota, both of whom lobbied the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to reject any U.S. base on the continent. Over the past five years, however, the appetite for full-scale rejection of bases has withered despite an African Union resolution against allowing the establishment of such bases in 2016. The U.S. military has 29 known military bases in 15 of the African countries.

Not only have 15 African countries ignored their own regional body’s advice when it comes to allowing foreign countries to establish military bases there, but the African Union (AU) has itself allowed the United States to create a military attaché’s office inside the AU building in Addis Ababa. “The AU that resisted AFRICOM in 2007,” M’membe told me, “is not the AU of today.”

This article was produced by Globetrotter. Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Why Palestine’s Sports Victories Should Inspire Us

While Israel uses sports to normalize itself and its apartheid regime in the eyes of the world, Tel Aviv impedes Palestinian sports because Palestinian sports is, at its core, an act of resistance.

By Ramzy Baroud, CounterPunch

The Palestine National Football Team has, once more, done the seemingly impossible by qualifying for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. By any standards, this is a great achievement, especially as the Palestinians have done it with style and convincing victories over MongoliaYemen and the Philippines, without conceding a single goal. However, for Palestinians, this is hardly about sports.

Photo Source: Fars Media Corporation

This accomplishment can only be appreciated within the larger context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

In November 2006, the Israeli military prevented all Palestine-based footballers from participating in the final match of the Asian Football Confederation qualification group stage. The news had a major demoralizing effect on all Palestinians. Even rare moments of hope and happiness are often crushed by Israel.

As disappointing as the Israeli decision was, it was hardly compared to the collective shock felt by Palestinians everywhere when, in 2007, Palestinian players were not allowed to participate in a decisive World Cup qualifying game against Singapore. Instead of showing solidarity with Palestinians and condemning Israel, the International Football Association (FIFA) decided to award an automatic victory to Singapore of 3-0.

This is why Palestine’s latest qualification is historic, as it is more proof that Palestinian resilience has no bounds. It sends a message to Israel as well, that its unjust draconian measures will never break the spirit of the Palestinian people.

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