Common Dreams

Sinema targeted over 'morally unforgivable' tax loophole for the rich

A group of wealthy investors and business leaders who support progressive taxation launched a campaign Tuesday aimed at pushing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to back efforts to repeal the carried interest loophole, which allows rich private equity moguls to substantially reduce their tax bills.

According to Patriotic Millionaires, the organization behind the new effort, Sinema (D-Ariz.) is the only member of the Senate Democratic caucus opposed to eliminating the loophole, a longtime target of progressives.

Private equity interests, for their part, have aggressively lobbied Congress—and Sinema in particular—to keep the profitable carveout intact. Thus far their influence-peddling has succeeded in keeping any proposed repeal of the tax break out of Democrats' Build Back Better Act, which the Senate is expected to vote on before the Christmas holiday.

"The carried interest is the most intellectually indefensible, morally unforgivable loophole in the entire tax code, and Senator Sinema's defense of it is patently absurd," Erica Payne, president and founder of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement. "Every Democrat in the Senate, even Joe Manchin, is on board with closing this ridiculous loophole except for Senator Sinema. It's time for her to decide who she works for: Arizonans, or private equity billionaires."

As part of the pressure campaign, Patriotic Millionaires members—including Karen Stewart of Arizona, a former Certified Financial Planner and finance professor—took out full-page ads in local newspapers and plan to hold demonstrations outside Sinema's regional office to demand that she change her stance on the loophole.

"Sinema's support for preserving the carried interest loophole for Wall Street elites comes at the expense of the tax-paying voters in her own backyard," said Stewart. "Special interests and wealthy lobbyists should not decide the future of our nation. What American families need right now are lawmakers willing to prioritize them over the millionaires and billionaires, not a mouthpiece for the already rich and powerful."

Sinema full-page ad

Carried interest refers to the portion of an investment firm’s profit that is paid to fund managers, who—under current tax rules—are allowed to treat the income as long-term capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate than labor income.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that taxing carried interest as ordinary income would raise roughly $20 billion in federal revenue over a decade.

Despite broad support for such a policy change within the Democratic caucus, it is not among the tax measures in Democrats' $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill.

Sinema, a major obstacle to Democrats' plans to raise taxes on the wealthy, has recently held fundraisers with private equity interests that would be hit by repeal of the carried interest loophole. The Intercept reported in September that over "the past two years, Sinema has received tens of thousands of dollars in maxed-out donations from private equity partners... and investment firm CEOs."

In an open letter to Sinema published as full-page ads in local newspapers across Arizona, Payne, Stewart, and Patriotic Millionaires chair Morris Pearl argue that "closing tax loopholes for billionaires is the easiest, fastest, most productive way to 'pay for' new investments in the country and simultaneously unrig an economy that 70% of Americans think is rigged against them (Guess what? They're right)."

"Which leads us to the real question at the heart of all of this," the letter continues. "Who exactly are you working for, Senator Sinema: Arizonans or The Billionaires?"

Trump-appointed judge suspends Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors

A federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump on Tuesday issued a nationwide injunction against the Biden administration's Covid-19 vaccine mandate for employees of federal contractors.

All three of President Joe Biden's vaccination requirements covering the private sector—the mandates for federal contractors and staff at healthcare facilities funded by Medicare or Medicaid plus the jab-or-test rule at large companies—are now frozen across the country as a result of numerous right-wing legal challenges.

In a 28-page ruling, U.S. Judge R. Stan Baker of the Southern District of Georgia argued—as the nation's Covid-19 death toll approached 800,000—that Biden likely exceeded his constitutional authority by requiring federal contractors' employees to be fully vaccinated by January 18.

Enforcement of the rule had already been halted in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee by another federal judge, but Baker's order—which comes in response to a lawsuit filed by seven GOP-led states—prevents the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate for federal contractors anywhere in the country while the case unfolds in court.

Although it was praised by public health experts who have emphasized the need to boost inoculation rates to overcome the ongoing pandemic, Biden's September executive order establishing vaccination requirements for more than 100 million private sector workers has faced a barrage of lawsuits from Republican officials.

After Biden announced last month that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would soon begin enforcing a lifesaving Emergency Temporary Standard that includes vaccination, testing, and mask-wearing rules at companies with 100 or more workers, several attorneys general sued.

In response, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit—which Trump pushed in an even more conservative direction by appointing numerous far-right judges—issued a temporary injunction. While the Department of Justice stressed in its appeal that the Labor Department has the legal authority to protect workers amid a deadly public health emergency, the panel upheld its stay.

As a result, OSHA has suspended enforcement of the rule, pending further legal developments. At least 34 related lawsuits have been filed, many by GOP-led states, in federal appeals courts across the nation. A federal judicial panel has consolidated the lawsuits and randomly assigned the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. That court has a Republican majority, though it remains unclear which judges will hear the case.

In the meantime—and ahead of an anticipated spike in Covid-19 cases this winter, as colder weather forces people to spend more time indoors and breakthrough infections become more common due to waning immunity—medical professionals have urged employers to swiftly implement Biden's contested vaccine rules on a voluntary basis.

Recent studies confirm that vaccines save lives. In September, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that individuals in the U.S. who were not fully vaccinated last spring and summer were 11 times more likely to die after being infected with the coronavirus—and over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized—than those who had been completely inoculated.

According to Bloomberg Law, "Baker echoed what his Kentucky counterpart said, that blocking the mandate didn't indicate that the vaccine wouldn't be effective to stopping the spread of Covid-19, but rather that Biden didn't have the power to issue such an executive order."

In response to the latest setback, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that "the reason that we proposed these requirements is that we know they work, and we are confident in our ability, legally, to make these happen across the country."

Roughly 76% of the U.S. population over five years of age has been fully inoculated against Covid-19, according to the CDC. Recent polling shows that a majority of U.S. adults favor Covid-19 vaccination requirements, with only about one-fifth to one-quarter of respondents opposed.

'Maddening': White House dismisses idea of mailing out free COVID tests like other nations

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday rejected the idea of having the federal government mail free Covid-19 tests to households across the United States, a solution that has long been part of other nations' efforts to combat the pandemic.

During a press briefing, a reporter asked Psaki why the U.S. continues to lag behind the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, and other countries in making rapid Covid-19 tests easily affordable and accessible to all who want or need one—an objective that has gained importance amid fears of another winter surge fueled by the Omicron variant, which has been detected in at least 15 U.S. states.

Psaki responded by outlining a new White House plan under which Americans will be able to seek reimbursement from their private health insurers to cover the costs of rapid, over-the-counter coronavirus tests.

The plan—which likely won't take effect until mid-January—sparked immediate criticism when it was released last week, given that it will force people to navigate the byzantine private insurance system to get a refund on tests that remain expensive in the U.S. more than a year and a half into the pandemic.

"That's kind of complicated though," the reporter told Psaki on Tuesday. "Why not just make them free and give them out to—and have them available everywhere?"

To which Psaki replied, "Should we just send one to every American?"—seeming to dismiss the idea as ludicrous.

"Then what happens if you, if every American, has one test?" Psaki added. "How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?... I think we share the same objective, which is to make them less expensive and more accessible. Right? Every country is going to do that differently."

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The exchange angered public health experts who have long argued that the U.S. approach to testing is badly inadequate, hindering the nation's ability to detect and limit outbreaks of the virus. It is unconscionable, experts say, for a country as rich as the U.S. not to make rapid Covid-19 testing free and universally available.

"This answer was terrible, flippant, wrong," Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves wrote in a tweet directed at Psaki. "Rapid tests are hard to get, expensive, and could be a key intervention in fighting Covid-19. Other countries have figured out better ways to get these tools into the hands of their citizens. Do better."

Natalie Shure, a healthcare writer and columnist for The New Republic, called Psaki's comments "maddening."

"Of course the tests should be free, and all over the place!" Shure argued. "This is already happening elsewhere! It's gobsmacking how ill-prepared she was for this question, which suggests this isn't the urgent and overarching concern it ought to be in Bidenland right now."

In a report published last month, the Kaiser Family Foundation noted that several peer countries of the U.S. "have made rapid home tests widely available and at little or no cost."

"The U.K. government, for example, provides up to seven tests per day to those who cannot get tests from work or school and recommends each individual screen themselves twice weekly," KFF observed. "Providing up to seven tests per person allow one individual to collect tests for a whole household. Germany, until recently, made rapid antigen tests freely available as well (and tests can still be purchased for a few dollars in grocery stores)."

Last month, Germany moved to reintroduce free testing as coronavirus infections surged across the nation.

In the U.S., by contrast, "tests range from $9 each to $24 for a box of two (which are more commonly available)," Annalisa Merelli of Quartz reported last week.

"They are only sold in pharmacies," she added, "and hardly an everyday tool at the level of a mask, or hand sanitizer."

'Global empire of the US Christian right': Dark money fuels attacks on abortion rights worldwide

An investigation by the media outlet openDemocracy revealed Friday that the dark money groups masterminding the far-right assault on reproductive freedoms in the U.S. have also spent at least $28 million in recent years on efforts to roll back the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people worldwide.

The new analysis shows that prominent anti-abortion groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Federalist Society, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family and Heartbeat International have "been involved in recent efforts to limit reproductive rights in Europe and Latin America."

The organizations form what openDemocracy describes as "the 'dark money' global empire of the U.S. Christian right," which is exporting its legal strategy, army of lawyers, and resources overseas to forestall and reverse international progress on abortion access.

ADF, a far-right Christian legal advocacy group with ties to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, has spent years laying the groundwork for the draconian Mississippi abortion ban at the heart of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a Supreme Court case that could imperil reproductive freedoms across the U.S.

But ADF's influence extends well beyond its home country. According to openDemocracy, the organization—whose global arm is called ADF International—spent $15.3 million between 2016 and 2019 on efforts to gut abortion rights overseas.

"The European offices of ACLJ and ADF have intervened in dozens of European court cases against sexual and reproductive rights," the outlet notes. "Last year, Poland's constitutional court voted to ban abortion in cases of fetal defects. [ACLJ] submitted arguments in favor of the new restrictions, condemned by the Council of Europe as a grave 'human rights violation.'"

"The European branch of ACLJ also intervened for the first time at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights," openDemocracy observes. "The government of El Salvador, where abortion is illegal in all circumstances, was sued for the imprisonment and death of a woman who had experienced a miscarriage."

As for the Federalist Society—of which all six current right-wing Supreme Court justices are either current or former members—"Europe was the main destination of foreign spending," openDemocracy finds.

"Europeans are too naive in thinking that achievements in women's rights and sexual and reproductive health are irreversible," said Sophie in 't Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, told the outlet. "The anti-choice movement does not only have a lot of money, they also have a plan and the determination. Europe should wake up, and it should wake up fast."

While under U.S. tax law the far-right groups have largely succeeded in keeping their funding sources hidden from the public, openDemocracy examined "financial information disclosed by grantmakers" showing that the National Christian Foundation (NCF) and Fidelity Charitable donated $93 million to the organizations between 2016 and 2020.

openDemocracy graphic

Feminist researcher Sonia Corrêa of Sexuality Policy Watch said openDemocracy's report "exposes once again the long-running organic connections between anti-abortion forces in the U.S. and Latin America."

Neil Datta, secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, similarly argued that the findings "further demonstrate the growing trend of religious extremists forging cross-border alliances to advance... pseudo-legal arguments and engaging in formal legal processes aiming to unstitch the fabric of human rights protection."

In an op-ed for the New York Times on Thursday, openDemocracy's Mary Fitzgerald argued that if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Mississippi's abortion ban and undercuts Roe v. Wade, the nation will "join of a small cadre of increasingly authoritarian countries that have become more restrictive on abortion in recent years."

Fitzgerald went on to cite specific examples:

Poland's constitutional tribunal ruled on a retrograde abortion ban last year which effectively banned abortion in all cases apart from rape, incest or threat of life or health to the mother, after the ruling Law and Justice party packed the court.
Hungary's Viktor Orban is ramping up its talk on "family values," and a 2016 United Nations report criticized the country for obstructing abortion access.
Vladimir Putin's Russia has just joined the misleadingly titled Geneva Consensus Declaration: a document co-sponsored by the United States under the Trump administration with repressive governments including Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Mr. Orban's Hungary, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's Egypt, and signed by dozens more of the world's most repressive regimes from Saudi Arabia to Uganda. (President Biden announced in January that the United States would withdraw.) The declaration's authors also claim that there is no international right to abortion.

"Later this month President Biden will host the Summit for Democracy, with a key focus on promoting human rights around the world," Fitzgerald noted. "But as U.S. courts continue to dismantle basic rights enjoyed in countless other modern democracies, the most pressing question must be: How can democracy do its job at home if only half the population is granted full human rights?"

'Indefensible': Video shows cop fatally shooting a man using a wheelchair in the back — sparking outrage

Noting that up to half of all fatal U.S. police use-of-force incidents involve people with disabilities, rights advocates on Thursday voiced serious concerns over what they called the "unacceptable" killing of a wheelchair-bound Arizona man by a Tucson police officer who shot the victim nine times in the back on Monday evening.

"The fact that Mr. Richards was a person with a disability is of particular concern because persons with disabilities are more likely to die in an encounter with law enforcement than the general population."

Video released by the Tucson Police Department shows TPD officer Ryan Remington walking behind 61-year-old Richard Lee Richards, who is moving at low speed through the parking lot of a Lowe's home improvement center in his motorized wheelchair after being accused of shoplifting a toolbox from the store and brandishing a knife at employees.

As Richards slowly heads back toward the store entrance, Remington and another officer, Stephanie Taylor, order him to stop. Richards refuses, and Remington fires eight shots from his handgun at the man's back. Remington briefly pauses as Richards slumps forward in his wheelchair; the officer then fires a ninth shot. Remington then roughly handcuffs Richards, who is lying unresponsive on the ground in the store's entrance.

"The fact that Mr. Richards was a person with a disability is of particular concern because persons with disabilities are more likely to die in an encounter with law enforcement than the general population," the Arizona Center for Disability Law and DIRECT Center for Independence wrote in a letter to Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and members of the City Council on Thursday.

"Persons with disabilities are often subject to excessive force and discrimination in their encounters with law enforcement because of bias and stigma regarding disability, whether explicit or implicit," the groups continued.

Romero called Remington's actions "unconscionable and indefensible."

"It is moments like this that test our resolve to ensure justice and accountability," she said in a statement Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, TPD Chief Chris Magnus said he is "deeply troubled" by Remington's actions, whose "use of deadly force in this incident is a clear violation of department policy."

"As a result, the department moved earlier today to terminate Officer Remington," the chief stated.

The advocacy groups' letter cites Remington's "lack of ability to de-escalate the situation" as a primary area of concern. The officer's lawyer, Mike Storie, told media outlets that his client was "trying to talk this guy down and de-escalate" the situation.

The attorney said that Remington "did have a Taser, but in his mind, he couldn't use it because he didn't feel he had the proper spread to deploy it, with the wheelchair between him and Richards."

"Police work is messy at times," Storie added.

However, the groups' letter argues that Remington "used excessive force against an individual with a disability who had his back turned to the officer."

"Situations like this one play out all over the country, in Arizona, and now Tucson," the letter says. "TPD touts on its website that it is a 'progressive police department, engaged in community policing,' as well as being one of just two police departments in the largest 100 cities in the United States to initiate all of the '8 Can't Wait' policies promoted by Campaign Zero's Use of Force Project."

The "8 Can't Wait" reforms include requiring law enforcement officers to de-escalate, warn, and "exhaust all alternatives" before shooting suspects.

"This particular incident met none of those measures," the letter states. "And, any training TPD officers have received put to question the fidelity of the department, especially since this is the second incident in a year in which a TPD officer did not de-escalate a situation concerning a person with a disability."

"These situations are unacceptable," the letter stresses, "especially for a police department that prides itself on being an integral part of the community."

Critics are horrified as Biden restarts 'even worse' version of Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy

After the U.S. government announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with Mexico to restart the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" program, immigrant rights advocates criticized the Biden administration for "hiding behind a flawed court order to justify" reviving a policy that forces asylum seekers to wait in makeshift camps along the southern border pending legal review of their cases.

Re-implementation of the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program will begin as soon as Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement, adding that "once fully operational, MPP enrollments will take place across the Southwest border, and returns to Mexico will take place at seven ports of entry in San Diego, Calexico, Nogales, El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo, and Brownsville."

Mexico's "decision to accept the return of individuals enrolled in the program [is] subject to certain humanitarian improvements," DHS noted. According to the agency, which worked with the U.S. Departments of State and Justice, key changes to MPP include:

A commitment that proceedings will generally be concluded within six months of an individual's initial return to Mexico; opportunities for enrollees to secure access to, and communicate with, counsel before and during non-refoulement interviews and immigration court hearings; improved non-refoulement procedures; and an increase in the amount and quality of information enrolled individuals receive about MPP.
DHS will exclude particularly vulnerable individuals from being enrolled in MPP. In addition, DHS will provide Covid-19 vaccinations for all persons enrolled in MPP.

Immigrant rights advocates, however, stressed that MPP is an irredeemable violation of human rights regardless of the minor revisions proposed by the U.S. and Mexican governments.

"The Biden administration's shameful regression in restarting this unlawful Trump policy flies in the face of its own determination that no number of changes could render this deadly policy more humane or provide the access to the asylum system that the law requires," Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), said in a statement.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a former immigration attorney who is now policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, concurred. In a detailed Twitter thread, he said that "allowing the tiny handful of people who manage to get lawyers (5-7%, compared to 60% inside the U.S.) to have more meeting opportunities before hearings... is not much of a help."

In her statement, Hincapié said that "since its creation, the Remain in Mexico policy has subjected tens of thousands of people to grave danger and violated their fundamental right to asylum in the United States."

The Washington Post reported that "officials in the United States are planning to initially use the MPP program primarily for single adult asylum seekers," who account for the majority of unauthorized border crossings, according to an unnamed Biden administration official.

"Mexico is willing to accept asylum seekers from Spanish-speaking countries, as with the previous version of the program, but migrants from 'all Western Hemisphere nations' will be eligible for return," the newspaper reported, citing an administration official.

In response, Reichlin-Melnick argued that "the Biden administration's choice to expand Remain in Mexico to everyone from the Western Hemisphere—including Haitians—makes the program even broader than it ever was under the Trump administration."

"[President Joe] Biden didn't just bring back Remain in Mexico," Reichlin-Melnick added. "He's made it even worse."

The Biden administration—praised in June for ending its predecessor's xenophobic policy—insists that restarting MPP is required because of a federal court order. Legal experts, however, argue that the Biden administration has far more leeway than it claims and is certainly not required to expand the program.

In response to a lawsuit filed by Republican officials in Texas and Missouri, a federal judge in August ordered the Biden administration to reinstate Remain in Mexico. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit—which former President Donald Trump pushed in an even more conservative direction by appointing numerous far-right judges—"refused the administration's request to put the ruling on hold" and "ordered expedited consideration of the administration's appeal," the Associated Press reported.

On August 24, AP noted, the U.S. Supreme Court's six right-wing justices argued that "the Biden administration likely violated federal law in trying to end" Remain in Mexico and refused to block the lower court's ruling.

Nevertheless, as Reichlin-Melnick pointed out, "the lower court said Biden doesn't need to do the exact same implementation as Trump."

Moreover, said No More Deaths, an organization that provides humanitarian aid to migrants in the Sonoran borderlands, officials in the Biden administration "were considering reinstating MPP well before the court gave them a convenient excuse to do so. Their hands aren't tied, this is a choice."

No More Deaths cited reporting by VICE—published almost a week before the Supreme Court handed down its decision—which said:

Senior U.S. officials have privately discussed reviving the Trump-era policy Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), colloquially known as "Remain in Mexico," in order to manage the number of migrants arriving at the border, according to three sources with knowledge of the discussions. Under the policy, the U.S. sent more than 70,000 asylum seekers from 2019-2021 to some of Mexico's most dangerous border cities to wait while their immigration cases were decided.
Biden heavily criticized the policy as a candidate and suspended it on his first day in office. But as border apprehensions jumped, high-ranking officials in the White House floated the idea of bringing the program back, and it's been bandied about for weeks among a small circle of government officials. Discussions have centered around whether there could be a gentler version of the policy—a notion immigration advocates decry as ludicrous.

The NILC's Hincapié on Thursday stressed that "the Biden administration must stop hiding behind a flawed court order to justify restarting Remain in Mexico."

"Instead," she continued, "it should do what we've been saying for months—abandon its indefensible embrace of failed deterrence strategies like Remain in Mexico and the unlawful Title 42 expulsion policy and restore full access to asylum for those seeking safety and freedom."

"Now is the time," added Hincapié, "for the Biden administration to discard misguided political calculus and instead lead with courage and humanity to do everything in its power to relegate Remain in Mexico to the past."

New report urges Biden to stop arms sales fueling Saudi 'devastation' of Yemen

As the ongoing Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen's civil war continues to kill, maim, and displace civilians—over 300,000 of whom have died during more than seven years of fighting—a report published Thursday urges the Biden administration to end critical U.S. support for the atrocity-laden campaign by blocking pending arms sales and stopping future weapons transfers.

"During the Trump administration, the United States doubled down on its support of the regime in Saudi Arabia, regardless of how harshly the kingdom cracked down on human rights or how much devastation it caused through its war in Yemen," the Center for International Policy (CIP) report states.

Its author, CIP Arms and Security Program director William D. Hartung, writes he was initially hopeful that President Joe Biden would eschew the "cynical, transactional approach to U.S.-Saudi relations," but instead "the Biden administration's record so far has been mixed at best."

"The administration has halted two bomb sales to the Saudi regime, but it has offered $500 million in crucial maintenance and support for Saudi aircraft and continued the flow of U.S. arms offers already in the pipeline," he notes. "The administration has also made a $650 million offer of air-to-air missiles to the Saudi Royal Air Force."

"Most importantly," the report adds, "the Biden administration has refused to use U.S. leverage—in the form of a threat to cut off crucial U.S. spare parts and sustainment for the Saudi military—to force Riyadh to end its devastating blockade on Yemen and move towards an inclusive peace agreement to end the war."

Hartung notes that "the bulk of the weapons transferred to Saudi Arabia since 2009" are the result of deals made during the administration of Barack Obama, one of a long line of U.S. presidents who have courted the repressive Saudi monarchy since the discovery of oil in the desert kingdom in the 1930s.

"Arms sales offers to the kingdom totaled over $118 billion during the eight years of the Obama administration," he writes, "compared with $25 billion during the four years of the Trump administration and $1.1 billion so far in the first year of the Biden term."

While the losers of the war are clear—the United Nations Development Program says that 377,000 Yemeni civilians will have died by the end of this year—the report argues that the winners are "major contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics."

"All of the largest sales since 2009, including a $29 billion deal for Boeing F-15 aircraft, a $25 billion deal for Boeing Apache helicopters, a $15 billion deal for a Lockheed Martin THAAD missile defense system, [a] $10 billion deal for Lockheed Martin Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ships, a $5.4 billion deal for Raytheon PAC-3 missile defense interceptors, and a $1.57 billion deal for Raytheon Paveway bombs involved one of the four firms mentioned above as the primary supplier," notes Hartung.

The report calls on the Biden administration to "suspend all U.S. arms sales and military support to the Saudi regime—both new offers and systems still in the pipeline and yet to be delivered—as leverage to get Riyadh to end its blockade on humanitarian aid and commercial goods into Yemen, open Sana'a airport, and engage in good faith efforts to end the war."

Hartung says Congress should:

  • Force an end to all U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia by passing a War Powers Resolution in both houses;
  • Pass legislation to end all U.S. arms, maintenance, and spare parts [transfers] to the Saudi regime; and
  • Make it easier to block future sales to Saudi Arabia and other human rights abusers by requiring affirmative congressional approval of key arms sales, as opposed to the current approach which calls for veto-proof, joint resolutions of disapproval in both houses.

The new report comes after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced resolutions to block the Saudi arms sale. A vote on the Senate measure is expected within days.

"Without U.S. arms, maintenance, and spare parts, the Saudi military would not be able to prosecute its brutal war in Yemen. It's hard to overstate the degree to which the Saudi military relies on U.S. support," Hartung said in a statement. "It's time for the Biden administration to cut off this support as a way to change Saudi conduct and relieve the suffering of the Yemeni people caused by Saudi actions."

'There must be consequences': Democratic leaders demand Boebert's removal from committees

Democratic House caucus leaders are demanding that Rep. Lauren Boebert be removed from her committee assignments following racist remarks she made about Rep. Ilhan Omar, condemning the Colorado Republican for putting the progressive Democrat and Muslims across the U.S. in danger.

In a statement released Wednesday, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Congressional Asian Pacific American Chair Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Congressional Equality Caucus Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) condemned both Boebert's conduct and the refusal of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to hold members of his caucus accountable for bigotry.

"Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has absolutely failed in leading his caucus to condemn hatred and bigotry, much less to maintain any basic standards of decency within the halls of Congress," said the Democrats. "He is unwilling or unable to control his own members from inciting violence against other members of Congress or encouraging bigotry and hatred. If he cannot lead his own caucus, he certainly will never be able to lead the House of Representatives."

As Common Dreams reported last week, Boebert released a video in which she was seen falsely claiming that Omar, who is Somali-American, was mistaken for a suicide bomber by Capitol Police and calling Omar a member of the "jihad squad."

Amid warnings that such rhetoric directly endangers Muslims in the U.S., Boebert refused to publicly apologize for her remarks, instead demanding in a phone call with Omar that the Minnesota Democrat apologize for her so-called "anti-American" rhetoric.

On Tuesday, Omar shared at a press conference that following Boebert's incendiary remarks, she received a violent death threat on her voicemail in which the caller said, "You will not live much longer."

"Today, we are calling for Representative Boebert to be removed from her committee assignments," wrote the Democratic caucus leaders. "There must be consequences for vicious workplace harassment and abuse that creates an environment so unsafe for colleagues and staff that it invites death threats against them. There must be consequences for elected representatives who traffic in anti-Muslim and racist tropes that make all Muslims across the country less safe. There must be consequences when members of Congress demonize an entire religion and promote hate from their positions of public trust."

Nearly a week after Boebert shared the video, McCarthy has not condemned her comments. The Republican leader was widely criticized in November after Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) shared an animated video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—to which McCarthy responded only with a brief statement that Gosar "took the video down and he made a statement that he doesn't support violence to anybody."

Gosar was ultimately censured by the House and stripped of his committee assignments, with only two Republicans voting with the House Democrats in support of the move.

"It should not be a partisan issue to condemn the explicit harassment and dangerous abuse of a colleague based on their religion, but this is the level to which the GOP leader and too many members of the Republican party have sunk," wrote the caucus chairs. "In refusing to hold his membership accountable, Representative McCarthy condones this hatred and the danger it incites."

The chairs' statement followed a press conference in which Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) pointed to Gosar's and Boebert's videos as well as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's (R-Ga.) use of the term "jihad squad," which she used to refer to Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, and other progressive people of color in the House.

"Why isn't the Republican conference going to act on this?" said Jeffries. "What more does Kevin McCarthy need to see?"

Right-wing groups are already laying the groundwork for a post-Roe world

With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear opening arguments Wednesday in a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade and threaten abortion rights for millions of people across the country, right-wing anti-choice groups are preparing to ensure that anyone who becomes pregnant in the U.S. is forced to continue the pregnancy.

The consideration of Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban represents a moment the anti-choice movement has been waiting for since 1973, when Roe v. Wade affirmed that pregnant people have the right to obtain abortion care until 24 weeks of pregnancy.

After a number of extreme forced-pregnancy laws passed by right-wing state legislatures were overturned by federal courts in recent years, Mississippi officials are asking the high court to overturn Roe v. Wade in addition to allowing their law—which includes no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest—to stand.

Former Vice President Mike Pence called on the Supreme Court Tuesday to "make history" by overturning the ruling—a move that would swiftly put in place abortion bans in 12 states that have "trigger bans," including Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and in 14 other states that have severely restricted access to care.

Pence claimed in his remarks that "Americans are ready for an end to the judicial tyranny of Roe v. Wade"—despite the fact that only 27% of Americans back overturning the decision and 60% support upholding it, according to recent polling by ABC News/The Washington Post—and that the right to obtain abortion care should be left up to state legislatures.

Anti-choice groups including Students for Life of America and Americans United for Life are lobbying state-level lawmakers to pass new abortion restrictions and bans in the event that Roe is overturned.

"We've had a post-Roe strategy for the last 15 years," Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told Politico Tuesday.

The strategy includes launching a $5 million anti-choice ad campaign that will run in 20 U.S. cities and working with federal Republican lawmakers to ban online sales of pills used for medication abortions, which reproductive rights advocates say more and more people facing unwanted pregnancies may rely on if Roe is overturned.

With red states passing extreme forced-pregnancy bills in recent years, states including Louisiana and Mississippi have seen skyrocketing demand for abortion pills that can be accessed by mail, according to international nonprofit group Aid Access.

"This is a window into what the world will look like if the Mississippi and Texas bans are allowed to go into effect," Abigail Aiken, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of Aid Access's study, told Politico in May. "The people who are looking for abortions will not just suddenly say: 'Oh, I guess it's illegal now, so I won't get one.' They will look for whatever options they can find, including those outside the law."

Pregnant people in states that have passed bans—including Texas, where a six-week ban was allowed by the Supreme Court to stand in September—have increasingly traveled across state lines in recent months to access care, overwhelming clinics in states including Oklahoma and Kansas. According to the Guttmacher Institute, patients seeking care in Louisiana would have to drive an average of 666 miles, one way, to see a provider if americ is overturned.

With right-wing groups rallying to strip Americans of their right to obtain abortion care should Roe be overturned, pro-choice advocacy groups prepared to demonstrate outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, demanding not only that the law be upheld but also that the Senate pass the Women's Health Protection Act, which would keep abortion access free from medically unnecessary restrictions and create a statutory right for providers to provide abortion care.

"Abortion is healthcare, and the majority of Americans agree: We need to defend Roe v. Wade," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) earlier this week. "Congress can do that by passing the Women's Health Protection Act to protect access to abortion for everyone—regardless of their zip code. Let's get it done."

Amazon gets forced to give Alabama workers another shot at a union

In a victory for employees at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, a federal labor official on Monday formally directed a new union election following allegations that the company engaged in illegal misconduct leading up to an unsuccessful vote in April.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), celebrated the order from National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 10 Director Lisa Henderson, which a spokesperson for the agency confirmed to multiple media outlets.

"Today's decision confirms what we were saying all along—that Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace—and as the regional director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal," Appelbaum said. "Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union."

After the initial union drive—which garnered national attention and support from key labor rights figures including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—RWDSU filed nearly two dozen complaints with the NLRB alleging that Amazon threatened workers with loss of pay and benefits, removed pro-union employees from trainings, and installed an illegal ballot drop box.

Henderson's directive comes after NLRB hearing officer Kerstin Meyers in August recommended that the Alabama workers get another vote because Amazon's "conduct interfered with the laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a fair election."

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told Protocol on Monday that "our employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they overwhelmingly chose not to join the RWDSU earlier this year. It's disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn't count. As a company, we don't think unions are the best answer for our employees."

The outlet noted that while no unionization push by Amazon workers has succeeded, there are two other ongoing initiatives: "The International Brotherhood of Teamsters union has committed to organizing delivery drivers and truckers as a nationwide priority, and an unaffiliated union effort in Staten Island has fought for enough employee signatures to request an NLRB election at the facilities there."

Jordan Zakarin of More Perfect Union pointed out that "election re-runs are rarely more successful than the first election, and Amazon has an astronomically high turnover rate."

"Those are high hurdles," he tweeted. "Still, the public support for this campaign and the budding worker militancy we're seeing nationwide could make things interesting."

Labor writer Kim Kelly similarly said that "it's very rare to win a re-run election, but I know the union has already been organizing for months, and some of the conditions that hamstrung that first effort have changed. Overall I am extremely interested to see what happens!"

Though the time and method of the new election haven't yet been determined, the regional director's decision against the e-commerce giant came on Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year.

Last week, some progressives marked Black Friday—another major holiday shopping event—by pressuring the evenly divided U.S. Senate to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Those calls included highlighting Amazon's opposition to its workers unionizing.

Demands to pass the pro-union legislation came as Amazon employees and allies took to the streets around the world for #MakeAmazonPay demonstrations urging the online retailer to improve labor conditions, increase wages, operate more sustainably, and pay its fair share of taxes.

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