Alexander Zaitchik

Chevron Has Avoided Justice for Environmental Crimes in Ecuador and the U.S. - Can Canada Hold It to Account?

This Tuesday, April 17, a court in Toronto will hear the latest round of arguments in the epic legal battle between Chevron and the Ecuadorian villages that the oil company systematically contaminated for decades.

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Why Is UCLA Doing Big Pharma's Dirty Work in India?

On the morning of March 14, a first-year UCLA medical student named Kayla Gu approached the microphone at a meeting of her university’s Board of Regents. Speaking in a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck, she urged the university to drop a patent claim pending at India’s high court, which the David Geffen School of Medicine filed in order to block generic production of the prostate cancer drug enzalutamide, trade name Xtandi. Though developed at UCLA with tens of millions in funding from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Army, the drug giant Pfizer is making billions in profits by pricing a standard course of the drug at $130,000.

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On World Water Day, New Campaign Kicks Off to Bring Clean Water to the Oil-Contaminated Upper Amazon

A quarter-century after the United Nations designated March 22 World Water Day, its observance is more urgent than ever. Around two billion people consume unsafe water every day; close to a million die each year from related contamination and disease. Another 700 million—most of them women—travel hours by foot to the nearest water source. Global freshwater demand, meanwhile, is expected to spike a third by 2050, as climate change and pollution put further strains on supply.

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The Battle of 1498

The Battle of 1498.

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Taxpayers - Not Big Pharma - Have Funded the Research Behind Every New Drug Since 2010

Something odd happened when the Trump administration submitted the original version of its latest pro-corporate budget: Big Pharma didn’t like it.

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Close Encounters of the Racist Kind: A Guide to the Modern Far-Right

On December 6, 1830, Andrew Jackson used his second State of the Union address to defend the Indian Removal Act, the administration’s sole legislative victory. He described the law promulgating the expulsion and resettlement of southeastern Native American tribes as the “happy consummation” of U.S. Indian policy. To his critics who “wept over the fate of the aborigines” — and who, it turned out, accurately predicted the horrors of the forced migrations known collectively to history as the Trail of Tears — Jackson offered an archeology lesson. Any “melancholy reflections” were ahistorical, he said, because the Indians were neither innocent victims nor first peoples, but perpetrators of what Jackson’s modern admirers might call “white genocide.”

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The God Capsule: Can Psychedelics Prove a Biological Basis for Spirituality?

For a long time in western culture, transcendent consciousness was tightly linked with characters on the spiritual fringe: visionary prophets, ascetic sages, and ecstatic poets. Mystical states were like lightning bolts in the days before Ben Franklin’s kite—fleeting, unpredictable, and impossible to harness or measure. They were divine bolts that hit during the frenzies of ecstatic creation and desert wanderings. They were the ultimate mystery.

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How the Government Can Bring Down Drug Prices

Buy Alexander Zaitchik's short new biography of HHS Secretary Tom Price, the first title from Strong Arm Press, a new progressive imprint under the direction of Ryan Grim, D.C. Bureau Chief of the Intercept, and Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works

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The Gilded Rage: A Conversation With a Trump Supporter That Will Surprise You

The following is an adapted excerpt from Alexander Zaitchik's new book, The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump's America, published here with permission from Skyhorse/Hot Books. The Gilded Rage is the chronicle of Zaitchik's listening tour, inspired by Studs Terkel, through the Rust Belt, Appalachia, and along the Mexican Border. The result is an often surprising collection of voices of Trump supporters that Zaitchik met as he followed the 2016 primary calendar. The below section profiles a West Virginia Trump supporter named Ed Wiley, a former miner who in recent years has emerged as one of the state's leading (and most unlikely) anti-coal activists. 

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U.S. Laws Criminalizing Sleeping in Public Have Grown as Much as 60 Percent in Just a Few Years

There is a war on, and it concerns the homeless’ right to sleep. Across the United States, recent years have seen a spate of municipal laws that criminalize the act of sleeping in public places. These laws often target the act of sleeping in private vehicles under the guise of “anti-camping” legislation.

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Meet Los Colchoneros, Havana’s Friendly Neighborhood Bed Repairmen

Original published by Van Winkle's, a new website dedicated to smarter sleep & wakefulness, published by Casper.

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Guatemala's Maya Put Their Lives on the Line to Protect an Irreplaceable Rainforest

PETÉN, Guatemala—It doesn’t look like much, this thatch-roof factory in the middle of the Guatemalan rainforest. The cement floor is scattered with low piles of xate, an unassuming palm leaf. A dozen workers from the village of Carmelita quietly haul, separate, and stem the bright-green fronds, bundling them in brown paper. There is no electricity, and the silence is only broken by the rumbling bellows of distant howler monkeys. Nothing in the languid scene suggests much of consequence for tiny Carmelita, let alone anyone outside Petén, a Belgium-size province in northern Guatemala known for its spectacular Maya ruins. It is also is home to the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the biggest block of protected broadleaf rainforest north of the Amazon.

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The People Who Rebuilt New Orleans Are Still Waiting to Get Paid

The parking lot of Lowe’s Home Improvement in the St. Roch neighborhood of New Orleans is much like the parking lot of other big-box building-supply stores across the country. The curb near the exit is what Latino day laborers call an esquina, or “corner,” where they congregate and wait for contractors with drywalls to install, or suburban dads with junk that needs hauling. Beginning at dawn, people with jobs of all sizes drive up to these corners and select workers to perform difficult manual labor for below minimum wage, or specialized work for as much as $15 an hour.

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Peddling Paranoia: Top 10 Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theorizing has flourished as a virtual art form in all nations and across all political persuasions. But the American radical right has to be considered a strong contender for the title of modern conspiracy champion. A vast body of academic literature exists exploring this history, of which Richard Hofstadter's 1964 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" is the most famous. Hundreds of books and articles have chronicled the rise (and fall) of an unceasing march of disparate conspiracy-based movements that, at different points in American history, have trembled before and warned against imaginary threats posed by Catholics, Mormons, Jews, American Communists, Freemasons, bankers, and U.S. government officials and agencies.

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The Truth About the Lockerbie Bombing - And the Censored Film That Dared to Reveal It

The final documentary produced by the American filmmaker Allan Francovich, The Maltese Double Cross: Lockerbie was buried by the American press upon its release in 1994. It was dismissed and attacked for including testimony from terrorists, convicted felons, turncoat spooks, and others of dubious character. But mostly it was ignored. Unlike Francovich's previous films about the U.S. intelligence world, no art house theater screened it; no public television station aired it.

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The Crazy Things Gun Nuts Say Behind Closed Doors

This post originally appeared on MMFA.

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Climate Deniers Take Their Act to Vegas

They say comedy is just a funny way of being serious. So it's natural that a deepening climate crisis would produce a deepening well of climate comedy. We don't yet have our climate-themed Dr. Strangelove, but there's now a feature film's worth of gags, skits, and riffs exploring the lighter side of a cooking planet. Stand-up comics, from mainline stars like Louis C.K. to niche acts like the Christian comic Paul Kerensa, have mined climate change for material. Climate activist groups like 350.org have recently begun to take a cue from Comedy Central. Even NASA climatologists have gotten awkwardly into the act.

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Stephen Colbert Won’t Save Us, “Game of Thrones” Is Not That Good: This “Golden Age” of TV Is a Big Sham

I think it happened around Season 3 of “The Wire.” Maybe it was “The Sopranos.” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”? “Lost”? I can’t say. I just know I woke up one day confused.

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Inside the Western Conservative Conference: Activists Sold on Guns, Gold and the Threat of China

PHOENIX -- The demographic death spiral of the conservative movement has a laugh track. It was recorded live in Barry Goldwater's hometown on Saturday night, in front of a 1,000-person ballroom audience, during a banquet roast of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the gala conclusion to the annual Western Conservative Conference, known until last year as Western CPAC.

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Factory Farms Are Accelerating an Antibiotics Nightmare

Every September, the Animal Health Institute, the trade group of the animal pharmaceutical industry, hosts a party on Capitol Hill called Celebrity Pet Night. The AHI describes its signature social event as a night for “members of Congress and their staff — as well as friends of the animal health community — to gather to celebrate America’s pets.” Held in the ornate Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building, the party receives high marks from D.C. society columnists for its classy setting, loaded double bar and zoological star power. Recent guests of honor include the cat Lord Tubbington from “Glee” and the French bulldog from the Robert Downey Jr. buddy-flick bomb “Due Date.”

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Burning Man for Gun Nuts -- Inside the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot

It's an odd feeling to get the upsell on instruction manuals related to domestic terrorism. The nice lady from the Illinois hamlet of Smithton would never describe her wares that way, but that's what they are. The booklets were stacked in neat rows that wrapped around her four tables in the exhibitor's hall at October's Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot, a biannual event just south of Louisville that looks and sounds a lot like a reenactment of the first days of the Siege of Stalingrad. Since 1979, the Shoot has drawn growing numbers of full-auto aficionados to the wooded hills of West Point, Ky. for holidays of high explosives, artillery and machine gun fire. Each April and October, bombs shake the earth and blacken the sky. Streams of bullets smack steel and rubber targets until they burst aflame. The rumble from the range is audible even at the far end of the event's 900-table vendors hall, where I found myself one fine autumn morning perusing technical guides to building kitchen-table bombs and retro-engineering semi-automatic rifles into military-style machine guns.

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The Secret Fears of the Gun Lobby and What They're Planning Next

"Take a look to your left," said the Hon. Philip Journey. "Now take a look to your right. What do you see?"

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Glenn Beck Unveils His Next Nutty Idea to His Followers at His Summer Gathering: I'm the Man in the Moon

"There's a sucker born every minute." -- Glenn Beck, Salt Lake City, July 6   

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Fear, Paranoia and Loathing: Inside the NRA's 2013 Convention

HOUSTON -- To swing the door on a National Rifle Association annual meeting is to enter a world where Freedom comes from a gun. The gun's purpose is not important. It doesn't have to be American made. It can be any number of shapes, so long as it has a grip, a trigger, and a barrel. But only from a gun barrel can Freedom flow. In the words of multiple NRA members who confronted protestors this past weekend, "The Second Amendment is the one thing protecting the First."

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Cynical Companies Are Already Scheming How Getting Rich off Global Warming

On the opening morning of the inaugural National Adaptation Forum, I was eating breakfast at a stand-up table in the exhibition hall when a mustachioed man of middle age plopped his cherry Danish next to my pile of conference literature, a mess of pamphlets and reports with titles like Getting Climate Smart: A Water Preparedness Guide for State Action, and Successful Adaptation: Linking Science and Policy in a Rapidly Changing World. The nametag dangling above the Danish identified the man as Michael Hughes, director of public works for the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst. Like many attendees, Hughes was part of a new national emergency-response team without being fully aware of it. He had arrived in Denver knowing little about “adaptation,” the anemic catchall for attempts to fortify our natural and built environments against the epochal temperature spike in progress.

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UN Passes Historic Arms Trade Treaty to U.S. Media Silence

THE UNITED NATIONS – On the day the Arms Trade Treaty was scheduled to face a consensus vote by 193 countries, ending the years-long process to establish an international agreement to curtail arms trafficking to nations torn by conflict, I listened to a member of the Liberian delegation explain his country’s concerns. “We wanted a much tighter treaty,” he said, referring the large group of African countries most affected by the global black market arms trade. ”Those of us who live in countries devastated by civil war very clearly understand the need for a strong regulatory framework to deter non-state actors from getting weapons. This is why we wanted a mechanism for risk-assessment, and why we wanted penalties.”

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Revealed: Right-Wing Groups Spent Over $1 Million Bankrolling Fox News Host's Propaganda in Schools

Two foundations that have been described as "the dark money ATM of the right" have spent more than $1 million combined funding a non-profit organization whose primary function is distributing libertarian education materials featuring Fox Business host John Stossel.

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"To Get the Gold, They Will Have to Kill Every One of Us First” Tribal Leaders Fight Gold-Hungry Investors

Of the thousands of “Avatar” screenings held during the film’s record global release wave, none tethered the animated allegory to reality like a rainy day matinee in Quito, Ecuador.

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Before the World Forgets Antarctica's First Great Author: The Fascinating Life and Death of Nick Johnson

Just ten years ago, an entire continental literature was up for easy grabs. But who cared about planting a flag in the South Pole of letters?

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New Outrageous Lie from NRA: Gun Silencers Protect Kids' Hearing

A gruesome holiday season exercise: Think of some firearms and accessories that might have added to the body counts of Aurora and Newtown. More starkly, imagine the means by which coming Auroras and Newtowns will be made more deadly.

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Future Fox News Superstar Greg Gutfeld Is Ignorant, and Proud of It

It is not insulting Fox News host Greg Gutfeld to say he doesn't know much about the subjects he jokes and chats about for a living. He draws pleasure from saying so himself, over and over again, in a thousand repetitive ways.

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