Jon Queally

Fetterman’s next chief of staff authored book calling for abolition of Senate filibuster

U.S. Senator-elect John Fetterman on Friday announced two key staff hires for his office on Friday, including tapping the author of a book calling for the abolishment of the arcane Senate filibuster to be his next chief of staff.

The Pennsylvania Democrat said in a statement that he has hired Adam Jentleson to oversee his D.C. office as chief of staff and that longtime party operative and labor organizer Joseph Pierce will be his state director.

A veteran of the Senate who served under former Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Jentleson also wrote the 2021 book, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern State and the Crippling of American Democracy, which examines Senate rules that powerful interests have exploited to obstruct progressive legislation with overwhelming majority support among the American public.

Throughout the first two years of the Biden administration, Jentleson was a key voice calling for Senate reforms to enact pressing priorities.

When Republicans blocked an effort in the Senate in May of 2021 to establish an official inquiry into the January 6 insurrection, Jentleson, then serving as executive director of the advocacy group Battle Born Collective, said it would be a "dereliction of duty" for Democrats not to reform the chamber's rules to push the measure through.

"There is no longer any question about whether Republicans will put country over party—it is clear to anyone with eyes to see that they will not," Jentleson said at the time. "The only question that remains is whether Democrats will take the steps necessary to protect our democracy, and end the filibuster."

On the campaign trail ahead of the midterm elections, Fetterman repeatedly vowed to support the end of the filibuster in the Senate if it would allow for key legislation to pass on gun control, labor protections, abortion rights, or voting access.

At a September rally with voters, Fetterman denounced the U.S. Supreme Court ruling destroying the abortion rights and said, "Send me to D.C. and you will know I will be there to be that vote to scrap the filibuster and codify Roe v. Wade."

While Jentleson has been spearheading Fetterman's transition team since winning in Pennsylvania against Republican Mehmet Oz, Pierce served as statewide political director on the winning campaign.

"Joe and Adam are the best in their fields and I am honored that they have both accepted key staff positions for my office," Fetterman said in a statement on Friday.

"It will be invaluable to have a veteran of the Senate and a veteran of state politics in these key positions as we serve the people of Pennsylvania," he added. "Between Adam's deep understanding of the Senate and Joe's wealth of knowledge and experience serving the people of our commonwealth, I am confident that my office will be ready to fight and deliver for the people of Pennsylvania on day one."

Demands surge for Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott to be prosecuted for deceptive migrant transports

As Republican Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas continued over the weekend to defend their plot to put refugees and migrants from Latin America on planes and busses to northern cities and communities, critics of the 'cruel' and 'immoral' have said the two should face investigation and ultimately criminal prosecution for misleading and mistreating the people at the center of their political gamesmanship.

Amid confirmed reports that many of the migrants sent to Martha's Vineyard last week by DeSantis had been misled by officials in Florida about the nature of their trip, immigration rights legal aides have said they intend to push for legal action to stop such abuses. As the New York Times reports:

The lawyers said they would seek an injunction in federal court early next week to stop the flights of migrants to cities around the country, alleging that the Republican governor had violated due process and the civil rights of the migrants flown from Texas to the small island off the coast of Massachusetts.

'They were told, 'You have a hearing in San Antonio, but don't worry, we'll take you to Boston'' said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the executive director for Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) Boston. He said dozens of the migrants had told his team they only had been informed midair that they were going to land in tony Martha's Vineyard rather than Boston.

Representing more than 30 of those people brought to Martha's Vineyard with free legal assistance, LCR said in a statement Saturday that it has "called upon U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to formally open criminal investigations into the political stunt that brought two planeloads of immigrants to Martha's Vineyard earlier this week."

Detailing "how its clients were induced to board airplanes and cross state lines under false pretenses," the legal aid group said that only after the planes landed did the immigrants "learn that the offers of assistance had all been a ruse to exploit them for political purposes."

"Particularly given the deliberate, intentional, and concerted nature of the interference by State actors into federal immigration enforcement," LCR said "a strong and coordinated federal response is required."

On Saturday, a second bus from Texas loaded with migrants arrived at Vice President Kamala's Harris' D.C. residence. According to the Texas Tribune:

The bus arrived before daylight outside the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.; a video shared by an NBC News journalist showed migrants wearing masks and carrying pillows walking off the bus and into a city that has declared a public health emergency due to the influx of migrants. A spokesperson for Abbott confirmed that the bus came from Texas.

On Friday, Abbott's office said it had sent 8,000 migrants to the nation's capital since announcing his busing policy in the spring. The state has also sent 2,500 migrants to New York City and 600 to Chicago. Abbott began targeting the vice president's residency this week after she appeared on Meet the Press and said the border was secure, stoking conservative anger.

In an interview with VICE on Friday, Harris said the behavior of Abbott and Harris was a "dereliction of duty" as elected public servants.

"They're playing games," she said. "These are political stunts with real human beings who are fleeing harm."

While some legal experts contend that Abbott and DeSantis have acted within their authority when shipping refugees and vulnerable immigrants across the country to score political points, demands for prosecution or at least a criminal probe by the Department of Justice have come from California Governor Gavin Newsom and others.

Writing in Jacobin magazine, former Bernie Sanders presidential campaign manager Jeff Weaver argued that DeSantis should be prosecuted for his unlawful conduct and that the American people—especially given the Florida Republican's presidential ambitions—should recognize just how abhorrent this behavior is.

"Like Donald Trump's family separation policy, this issue runs much deeper" than any particular position a lawmaker or politician has one immigration policy. "It's about inhumane and illegal conduct toward vulnerable people that is an affront to the values of every decent human being," wrote Weaver. He continued:

Progressives owe the country—which endured four years of lawlessness under Trump—to tell the truth about Ron DeSantis—an aspirant to the highest office in the land. He has demonstrated that, like Trump, he is willing to break the law to achieve political power.

What DeSantis did is not a political 'stunt.' It's a clear warning that, as president, he, like his Republican predecessor, would view the rule of law as a principle that is expendable when political expediency calls. And it's a crime. He should be prosecuted for it.

In an opinion column that appeared at Common Dreams on Saturday, progressive radio host and author Thom Hartmann said the behavior of Abbott and DeSantis harkens back to previous racist episodes in the nation's past and that the two Republican governors "should be looking at jail time or serious civil fines for engaging in this heartless, racist sport."

Raskin: What Trump did 'makes the Watergate break-in look like the work of Cub Scouts'

Congressman Jamie Raskin said Sunday that more explosive testimony before Congress in the week ahead will help the American public better understand that what former President Donald Trump perpetrated on and before January 6, 2021 was a series of offensive actions and decisions unprecedented in all of American history.

Asked on "Face the Nation" by host Robert Acosta whether the scheduled hearing on Tuesday would "blow the roof of the house," something Raskin had previously said, the Democrat from Maryland responded: "Well, not literally, certainly. But I think what I meant is that when you add all of this up together, it is the greatest political offense against the union and by a president of the United States in our history, nothing comes close to it."

Raskin, a member of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, is set to lead the Tuesday hearing, which will the seventh by the committee thus far.

"The attempt to overthrow the result of a presidential election through a political coup, and the mobilization of an armed violent mob cannot really be compared to anything else a president has done," said Raskin. "It makes the Watergate break-in look like the work of Cub Scouts."

On Friday, the Jan 6. committee received sworn testimony behind closed doors from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who was serving as Trump's lawyer before, during, and immediately after the resurrection. According to Politico on Sunday, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), also a member of the committee, said Cippolone—despite claiming attorney-client privilege throughout the questioning—still provided "a lot of relevant information" while under oath.

"I think there was a lot of information that fit into this bigger puzzle that we’re putting together," Murphy said.

Speaking with Acosta, Raskin also said Cipollone's testimony was valuable.

"We're going to get to use a lot of Mr. Cipollone's testimony to corroborate other things we've learned along the way," Raskin said. "He was the White House counsel at the time, he was aware of every major move I think that Donald Trump was making to try to overthrow the 2020 election and essentially seize the presidency."

Watch the full interview:

Raskin says Cipollone gave "valuable" testimony to Jan. 6 committee www.youtube.com

'An outrage': Sanders condemns attack by Israeli soldiers on Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral procession

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday called the attack on the funeral procession of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh that took place earlier in the day "an outrage" that must be condemnation by the U.S. government as he also called for an investigation into the killing.

Friday's attack was described as "horrific" and "grotesque" across the world after footage emerged of Israeli Defense Forces and security personnel hitting and otherwise assaulting the pallbearers of Abu Akleh's coffin and other mourners as they made their way through the streets of occupied East Jerusalem.

"The attack by Israeli forces against mourners at the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is an outrage," Sanders tweeted Friday afternoon. "The United States must condemn this, and demand an independent investigation into her killing."

Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) were among the other U.S. lawmakers who condemned both the attack on mourners and demanded answers about the killing Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American journalist who had covered the Israel-Palestinian conflict for decades.

Tlaib said the attack on the funeral was the work of Israel's "brutal apartheid government" while Omar said the incident was "just cruel."

"This is sickening," Tlaib said in a tweet responding to footage of the behavior of the Israeli forces. "Violent racism, enabled by $3.8 billion in unconditional military U.S. funds. For the Israeli apartheid govt, Shireen's life didn't matter - and her dehumanization continues after death." She further called on the U.S. State Department to "condemn this horror," but then asked: "Or does being Palestinian make you less American?"

"We must have an independent investigation into the killing of renowned Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh," said Khanna on Friday. "Once again I extend my deepest condolences to her family and all those mourning her loss."

'Utter travesty': Uninsured Americans will now be charged $125 for a single PCR COVID test

A major testing company in the United States announced this week that it will now charge people without Medicare, private coverage, or other insurance a $125 out-of-pocket charge to receive a Covid-19 PCR test—a fresh example of how the U.S. remains an outlier among wealthy nations for refusing to provide universal healthcare for its people.

According to ABC News, Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest testing companies in the country, has decided that those "who are not on Medicare, Medicaid or a private health plan will now be charged $125 dollars ($119 and a $6 physician fee) when using one of its QuestDirect PCR tests either by ordering a kit online or visiting one of the 1,500 Quest or major retail locations that administer the tests, such as Walmart or Giant Eagle."

The outlet reports the company has already "begun notifying its clients and partners they can no longer expect to be reimbursed for uninsured claims" unless new government funding is approved by Congress.

As Common Dreams reported at the time, critics slammed lawmakers earlier this month for making a "choice to extend the pandemic" by dropping over $15 billion in Covid-19 relief from a must-pass omnibus spending bill after Republicans wanted the funds to be redirected from already approved aid directed toward states.

Citing research published last month in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, physician and Medicare for All advocate Dr. Adam Gaffney on Saturday posted a twitter thread detailing how the study showed that uninsured people in the U.S. were more likely to be infected with Covid-19, a statistic he believes is likely still true, but much less likely to get tested.

"Even with the federal coverage," Gaffney said, the study he co-authored on the subject "found uninsured were less likely to be tested, despite having a higher rate of test positivity. But this latest shift will only exacerbate such disparities."

And while the researchers concluded their study by calling for expanded and more robust insurance coverage and access to Covid care for Americans, Gaffney bemoaned Saturday that now policymakers are "going in reverse."

Responding to ABC News reporting on Saturday, Oni Blackstock, a medical doctor and founder of the group Health Justice, suggested Quest's shift on how it will charge for their testing was an ominous sign:

Eric Reinhart, an athropology researcher and a resident physician at Northwestern University, also condemned the development.

"Charging individuals for Covid testing—a basic public health tool," said Reinhart, "is just willful stupidity."

The news also comes as progressives in the U.S. House on Thursday announced the first hearings since the pandemic began on Medicare for All.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who along with Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) will lead the hearing in the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday, said this week that "Americans deserve a healthcare system that guarantees health and medical services to all. Congress must implement a system that prioritizes people over profits, humanity over greed, and compassion over exploitation."

Billionaires 'had a terrific pandemic' while inequality killed millions: Oxfam

Oxfam International's latest report on global inequality finds that while the 10 richest individuals in the world more than doubled their collective wealth since Covid-19 hit in 2020, the related result of this billionaire surge has been a deadlier and more prolonged pandemic for the rest of the world in which the incomes of 99 percent of humanity fell, over 160 million people were forced into poverty, and billions of the poorest were denied access to life-saving vaccines.

Entitled Inequality Kills, the new report states that intense global inequality is "contributing to the death of at least 21,000 people each day"—approximately one person every four seconds—even as ultra-billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerbeg, Warren Buffett, and a handful of others grow richer and richer with each passing hour.

In total, using data from Forbes, Oxfam found that the 10 richest men in the world saw their fortunes grow from an estimated $700 billion to $1.5 trillion dollars, a rate of over $1.2 billion per day, since the pandemic hit nearly two years ago.

"If these ten men were to lose 99.999 percent of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99 percent of all the people on this planet," said Oxfam International's executive director Gabriela Bucher. "They now have six times more wealth than the poorest 3.1 billion people."

The outrageous wealth of these billionaires is not simply benign inequality, says the group. An economic system that allows a handful of individuals to amass such vast fortunes while billions go hungry and without proper medical care during a pandemic, according to Oxfam, is an overt act of violence aimed at huge swaths of humanity.

"The coronavirus pandemic has been actively made deadlier, more prolonged, and more damaging to livelihoods because of inequality," states Oxfam in their report. "Inequality of income is a stronger indicator of whether you will die from Covid-19 than age. Millions of people would still be alive today if they had had a vaccine—but they are dead, denied a chance while big pharmaceutical corporations continue to hold monopoly control of these technologies. This vaccine apartheid is taking lives, and it is supercharging inequalities worldwide."

As the overview of the report states:

The wealth of the world's 10 richest men has doubled since the pandemic began. The incomes of 99% of humanity are worse off because of Covid-19. Widening economic, gender, and racial inequalities—as well as the inequality that exists between countries—are tearing our world apart. This is not by chance, but choice: "economic violence" is perpetrated when structural policy choices are made for the richest and most powerful people. This causes direct harm to us all, and to the poorest people, women and girls, and racialized groups most. Inequality contributes to the death of at least one person every four seconds. But we can radically redesign our economies to be centered on equality. We can claw back extreme wealth through progressive taxation; invest in powerful, proven inequality-busting public measures; and boldly shift power in the economy and society. If we are courageous, and listen to the movements demanding change, we can create an economy in which nobody lives in poverty, nor with unimaginable billionaire wealth—in which inequality no longer kills.

"Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic," lamented Bucher. "Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom. Vaccines were meant to end this pandemic, yet rich governments allowed pharma billionaires and monopolies to cut off the supply to billions of people. The result is that every kind of inequality imaginable risks rising. The predictability of it is sickening. The consequences of it kill."

In response to the report, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday night issued a simple prescription to combat the current reality.

"Tax the billionaires," said Sanders. "Invest in the working class."

According to Oxfam, if just the top 10 billionaires alone paid a 99% tax on their windfall profits generated during the pandemic, it be enough to pay for "vaccines for every person in the world, universal healthcare, and social protection."

Abigail Disney, Walt Disney's grand-niece and a member of the U.S.-based Patriotic Millionaires, which advocates for higher taxes on the rich, agreed with Sanders that the solution is clear.

"The answer to these complicated problems is ironically simple: taxes," said Disney. "Mandatory, inescapable, ambitious tax reform on an international level—this is the only way to fix what is broken."

"Without high-functioning governments actively using plentiful resources to redress these injustices," she added, "we will head yet further down the rabbit hole the wealthy class has dug for us all. There is more than enough money to solve most of the world's problems. It's just being held in the hands of millionaires and billionaires who aren’t paying their fair share."

World's top 2021 climate disasters cost nearly $200 billion: study

A new report out Monday shows that 2021 continued the trend of annual climate devastation worldwide that is costing the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars as planet-heating emissions unleash exactly the kind of damage scientists have warned about for decades.

The new report by Christian Aid—entitled "Counting the Cost 2021: A Year of Climate Breakdown"—analyzed the 15 "most destructive climate disasters" around the world over the last twelve months of the year and found that the top 10 events alone, based mostly on losses documented by insurance claims, came to approximately $170 billion. With the next five smaller events assessed by the study not included in that total—and recognizing that the real costs are much higher overall than those available by insurance figures alone—the true figure is certainly much higher.

In the United States, the Texas Winter Storm earlier this year that cost $23 billion came in as the third most destructive event worldwide in 2021 while the devastation of Hurricane Ida, totaling $65 billion across numerous states, took the number one spot. At $43 billion, extreme floods that hit European nations over the summer collectively represented the second-most costly disaster of the year.

According to a statement by the group:

Some of the disasters in 2021 hit rapidly, like Cyclone Yaas, which struck India and Bangladesh in May and caused losses valued at $3 billion in just a few days. Other events took months to unfold, like the Paraná river drought in Latin America, which has seen the river, a vital part of the region’s economy, at its lowest level in 77 years and impacted lives and livelihoods in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
Four of the ten most costly events took place in Asia, with floods and typhoons costing a combined $24 billion. But the impact of extreme weather was felt all over the world. Australia suffered floods in March which displaced 18,000 people and saw damage worth $2.1 billion while floods in Canada’s British Colombia led to $7.5 billion in damage and 15,000 people having to flee their homes. Insurance and financial loss data on the recent tornadoes in the U.S. is incomplete, so is not included in this report but may be included in next year's study.

Christian Aid said that while their report focuses on financial costs, typically higher in richer countries due to higher property values and the existence of insurance markets, "some of the most devastating extreme weather events in 2021 hit poorer nations, which have contributed little to causing climate change."

Dr. Kat Kramer, the group's climate policy lead and author of the report, said dollar signs alone cannot calculate the losses caused by extreme weather.

"The costs of climate change have been grave this year, both in terms of eye-watering financial losses but also in the death and displacement of people around the world," Kramer said. "Be it storms and floods in some of the world's richest countries or droughts and heatwaves in some of the poorest, the climate crisis hit hard in 2021."

Kramer said that there was some progress made at the recent U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, but that the latest findings show "it is clear that the world is not on track to ensure a safe and prosperous world."

The figures for 2021 fall into a steady pattern in which the costs of extreme weather events and climate destruction continue to climb, just as climate scientists have long warned.

The report notes that "unless the world acts rapidly to cut emissions these kinds of disasters are likely to worsen," and references data by U.K.-based insurance giant Aon which show that 2021 is now likely to be the sixth time over the last decade in which global destruction from extreme weather events have crossed the $100 billion insured loss threshold. "All six have happened since 2011," the report states, "and 2021 will be the fourth in five years."

Responding to the new report, Rachel Mander, a member of the Young Christian Climate Network and who took part in activism related to the COP26 summit in Glasgow, said: "Climate change will bankrupt us, and along the way, we will lose so much more than money. To avoid this eventuality we need to take courageous action—making sure that the burden of costs are distributed and do not worsen global inequality, while also making activities which drive climate change more expensive."

Biden raises minimum wage for all federal contract workers to $15

Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal celebrated Monday's announcement from the U.S. Labor Department that all federal contract workers will be paid at least $15 per hour starting in January, but also took the opportunity to argue that should be the wage floor should for all U.S. workers.

"Great news," tweeted Jayapal in response to the news. "Now, let's take this nationwide and give over 30 million workers a much-needed and well-deserved raise."

In a statement on Monday, the Labor Department said the finalized rule—which will apply to all workers employed under or related to federal contracts—will go into effect on January 30, 2022 and is the culmination of an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in April of this year.

The workers who will benefit from the new wage floor, said Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, "do essential work on our nation's behalf. They build and repair the federal infrastructure, clean and maintain our national parks, monuments and other federal facilities, care for our veterans, and ensure federal workers and military service members are provided with safe and nutritious food."

The federal rule will apply to an estimated 325,000 workers as new contracts are signed after January, though some working under existing contracts may not see that pay bump immediately. According to the Labor Department, the rule does the following:

  • Increases the hourly minimum wage for workers performing work on or in connection with covered federal contracts to $15 beginning Jan. 30, 2022.
  • Continues to index the federal contract minimum wage in future years to inflation.
  • Eliminates the tipped minimum wage for federal contract employees by 2024.
  • Ensures a $15 minimum wage for workers with disabilities performing work on or in connection with covered contracts.
  • Restores minimum wage protections to outfitters and guides operating on federal lands.

Workers represented by SEIU applauded the rule.

"It would be such a relief to know that my job is protected because it would mean my family is protected too," said Ana Ayala, a single mother living in Woodbridge, Virginia who works as a janitor and is a member of 32BJ SEIU. "In Virginia, most janitors don't make this much or have these benefits which are so critical as a single mother with a child depending on me."

Ben Zipperer, an economist with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said in a lengthy blog post Monday that while the rule touches a relatively small percentage of the U.S. workforce, its impact could have positive reverberations.

"While not a substitute for a universal $15 minimum wage, there may be important spillover effects," said Zipperer, noting that other private employees will likely raise their wages in order to compete for labor and that higher wages will lead to less turnover and higher-quality services in industries like nursing home care.

"All in all this the new $15 minimum wage for federal contracts is excellent policy, another step to fixing a labor market that doesn't deliver adequate wages," he said.

Earlier this year, the Senate Parliamentarian objected to inclusion of an amendment to raise the federal minimum wage for all U.S. workers to $15 an hour and progressives expressed outrage that the Biden administration did not do more to fight back in order to ensure that wages would be lifted for all.

"At a time when millions of workers are earning starvation wages, when the minimum wage has not been raised by Congress since 2007 and stands at a pathetic $7.25 an hour, it is time to raise the minimum wage to a living wage," Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said at the time

Ocasio-Cortez heckles Kevin McCarthy when he says 'Nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR'

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among those who shouted backed overnight during the historic and "unhinged" marathon speech by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy when the Republican from California stated that there was no person in the country who voted for President Joe Biden last year who did so because they hoped he would act like former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who ushered through the 20th century New Deal.

Quoting a recent comment from Rep. Abigail Spannberger (D-Va.) during his speech in order to argue that Democrats are misguided to make sweeping social investments as part of their Build Back Better Act—which received a final vote in the House on Friday morning—McCarthy stated, "Nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR."

From the gallery in response, a voice can be heard responding, "I did." Later it was confirmed that this was Ocasio-Cortez.

Watch:

After Ocasio-Cortez's exclamation, someone else in the gallery responded, "Me too."

"Effective heckling is a lost art, but AOC managed to silence McCarthy for at least a few seconds." noted The Intercept's Robert Mackey.

In total, McCarthy spoke for eight hours and 32 minutes before finally ending his roundly criticized antics just after 5:00 am Friday.

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Ilhan Omar slams Joe Manchin: 'He isn’t negotiating — he is killing the bi​ll'

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar issued fresh public rebuke of Sen. Joe Manchin late Tuesday night, accusing her fellow Democrat of openly sabotaging the Build Back Better agenda that is at the center of their party's effort to make sweeping social investments to lift up the American working class in the midst of the ongoing pandemic by expanding Medicare, curbing childhood poverty, increasing affordable housing, spending big on climate, offering paid family leave, and initiating universal pre-K and childcare.

With reporting overnight that the White House has agreed in principle to drop the topline number of the reconciliation package down to $1.9 trillion—a number that progressives initially staked for a ten-year program at $10 trillion, later $6 trillion, and then $3.5 trillion—Omar said it was "time we all recognized" what Manchin is doing.

Omar's tweet was in response to reporting that Manchin as recently as Tuesday afternoon had still not budged from his offer to drag the overall price tag of the legislation down to $1.5 trillion.

"Sadly, his shameful tactics will cost his constituents much needed investments for themselves and families," Omar warned.

The Washington Post reports that President Joe Biden told Democrats in Congress during a White House meeting Tuesday that the $1.9 trillion should be the new target for ongoing negotiations that have pitted nearly the entire Democratic caucus against Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—both of whom have been showered with campaign funds from corporate interests groups.

According to the Post:

By the White House's calculations, a package up to $1.9 trillion would allow them to accomplish some of their most significant priorities. That includes at least some expansion of Medicare to offer new benefits to seniors, the introduction of universal prekindergarten, and billions of dollars to address climate change, the sources said, cautioning that many of the details must still be worked out.

But slimming down the package also is sure to force Democrats to make some sacrifices. The path put forward by the White House could extend new, expanded child tax credit payments recently adopted by Congress, but perhaps for only one additional year, three of the sources said. It would offer new money to make housing more affordable, yet far less than Democrats once envisioned. And it would provide paid leave, except only four weeks of benefits, rather than the 12 weeks some had once proposed, according to one of the people in the room.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, warned people against focusing on the topline number but voiced optimism following the White House meeting she and other progressives attended with Biden on Tuesday afternoon.

"I want to thank President Biden for his leadership and for continuing to fight for his visionary, transformative, and popular Build Back Better Act. We had a very productive and necessary conversation about the urgent need to deliver the full Build Back Better agenda," Jayapal said in a written statement issued by the CPC after the meeting.

"We feel progress is being made toward an agreement that will make transformational investments in the five priorities that the CPC laid out months ago," Jayapal added, "specifically the care economy — including child care, pre-K, paid leave, and home and community based care; housing; health care; climate action; and a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants."

Appearing on CNN, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday it was time for corporate media outlets and other pundits to stop asking progressives to "go smaller" and start asking obstructionists in the party like Manchin to "go bigger."

Outside progressive critics, meanwhile, took issue with what appears to them like growing capitulations by the White House and Democratic leadership to the obstruction of Manchin, Sinema, and other corporate-backed members of the party.

The reduced ambition expressed by the White House on Tuesday, said columnist Wajahat Ali, is "[thanks] to the butchering of Manchin, Sinema and the greed of their corporate lobbyists."

And The Daily Poster's David Sirota said: "Congratulations to Biden and the Democrats—they've taken their own bill from $6 trillion, to $4 trillion, to $3.5 trillion, to $1.9 trillion, to $1.5 trillion, and are now well on the way to just 2 bucks and a used Casio [watch]."

'Indefensible': US billionaires became $2.1 trillion richer in 19 months of pandemic

American billionaires grew in number and expanded their collective fortunes by $2.1 trillion since Covid-19 sparked a worldwide pandemic nineteen months ago, according to a new analysis unveiled Monday.

An overall 70% surge of wealth among the nation's richest individuals since March of 2020 has resulted in approximately 130 new billionaires, found the new report released by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). In a statement, the groups noted that there are now 745 people with "10-figure bank accounts" compared to the 614 that existed when the pandemic first hit.

In total, those 745 billionaires now hold $5 trillion in collective wealth, which the groups note is "two-thirds more than the $3 trillion in wealth held by the bottom 50% of U.S. households."

While ATF and IPS have been tracking the explosive growth of the uber-wealthy throughout the pandemic, the latest figures come as Democrats in Congress continue to negotiate with themselves over the cost and scope of President Joe Biden's 'Build Back Better' agenda which aims to provide expanded Medicare, paid family leave, universal childcare and pre-K, bold climate action, and an expanded childhood tax credit to alleviate childhood poverty and provide a more robust economic foundation for millions of working American families.

According to IPS/ATF:

The great good fortune of these billionaires over the past 19 months is all the more stark when contrasted with the devastating impact of coronavirus on working people. Almost 89 million Americans have lost jobs, over 44.9 million have been sickened by the virus, and over 724,000 have died from it.
To put this extraordinary wealth growth in perspective, the $2.1 trillion gain over 19 months by U.S. billionaires is equal to:
  • 60% of the $3.5 trillion ten-year cost of President Biden's Build Back Better plan.
  • The entire $2.1 trillion in new revenues over ten years approved by the House Ways and Means Committee to help pay for President Biden's Build Back Better (BBB) investment plan.

At the heart of their latest analysis, said ATF executive director Frank Clemente, is the failure to adequately tax these outrageous and growing fortunes.

"This growth of billionaire wealth is unfathomable, immoral, and indefensible in good times let alone during a pandemic when so many have struggled with unemployment, illness, and death," said Clemente. "For practical and moral reasons, Congress must start effectively taxing the outsized gains of billionaires."

Like other advocates, IPS and ATF are calling for much higher and stricter taxation on the windfall profits of the billionaire class—especially in light of the social needs that the pandemic has made so apparent.

Currently under consideration in Congress is the Billionaires Income Tax (BIT) bill, spearheaded by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.), chairman of the Finance Committee, which Clemente and Chuck Collins, director of IPS' Program on Inequality and the Common Good, say is the best piece of legislation to target the wealth of the super-rich. As the new analysis notes:

Most of these huge billionaires' gains will go untaxed under current rules and will disappear entirely for tax purposes when they're passed onto the next generation. Under Wyden's BIT, billionaires will start paying taxes on their increased wealth each year just like workers pay taxes on their paychecks each year.
The tax will apply only to taxpayers whose wealth exceeds $1 billion: about 700 households. It will be assessed annually on tradable assets, such as stocks, where the value of the asset is known at the beginning and end of the year. For non-tradable assets, such as ownership in a business or real estate holdings, taxes will be deferred until the asset is sold.

"Billionaires are undertaxed and playing hide-and-seek with their substantial wealth," said Collins. "Targeted tax increases on billionaires, including the proposed Billionaire Income Tax, would rebalance the tax code and reduce these glaring abuses in who pays for the services we all depend on."

In a statement last month following the release of a White House report on the average income tax rate of U.S. billionaires, Wyden said that it's shameful for the nation's wealthiest to pay lower tax rates than most working Americans.

"Billionaires are paying a mere 8 percent tax rate, lower than millions of working Americans," said Wyden.

"It's time for a Billionaire's Income Tax that ensures billionaires pay taxes just like the nurses and firefighters," he added. "Nurses treating Covid-19 patients pay their taxes with every paycheck, and they know it's fundamentally unfair that billionaires and their heirs may never pay tax on billions in stock gains. Instituting a Billionaire's Income Tax would go a long way toward creating one fair tax code, rather than one that's mandatory for working people and another that's optional for the fortunate few."

US climate movement takes aim at Biden White House 'to change course of history'

Organizers for climate justice are making final preparations Sunday ahead of five days of planned actions this week to confront President Joe Biden over the urgent need to declare a climate emergency, ditch fossil fuels, and move swiftly to create a green energy economy that can create millions of new jobs in the process.

"As fires burn, oceans rise and cities flood, we're mobilizing to Washington D.C. to demand that President Biden act on climate justice right now," said Joye Braun, a frontline community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), a key member of the coalition behind the week-long mobilization dubbed "People vs. Fossil Fuels" which will kick off Monday, include daily civil disobedience at the White House, and culminate Friday with a march on the Capitol Building for a mass sit-in.

"The fossil fuel industry has brought devastation to our homelands and it's time that we bring this fight to Biden's doorstep," said Braun.

The coalition—which includes IEN, 350.org, Sunrise Movement, Center for Biological Diversity, Zero Hour, Friends of the Earth USA, Oil Change International, Climate Justice Alliance, and many others—is calling on the U.S. president to "declare a climate emergency, stop all new fossil fuel projects, fight for climate justice, and launch a just and renewable energy revolution."

The group's detailed and complete list of demands can be found here and those who wish to get involved can visit this page on the coalition's website.

In their invitation to join the cause and back the demands put forth by front-line organizers from around the country, the coalition said: "We are asking you to stand with us. As representatives of communities who have carried the brunt of the harm from fossil fuels for generations, we ask you to join us in solidarity. If we all come together, put our bodies on the line in the name of climate justice, we may be able to change the course of history."

The 'Build Back Fossil Free' coalition organizing this week's mobilization says that Biden has both the executive authority and the popular mandate to act aggressively to address the climate crisis but so far has not acted with nearly enough urgency.

"Biden is faced with a momentous decision, and I and others will be gathering in Washington to encourage that decision: to declare a climate emergency, stop the petrochem build-out, and usher in a just transition to a clean, green renewables economy," said John Beard, director of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, a Texas group fighting the oil and gas industry in the Gulf Coast.

"President Biden came into office promising bold action to transform our economy with renewable energy and good jobs, but he passed the buck to a dysfunctional Congress," said Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Energy Justice program. "Biden has immense executive powers to speed the end of the fossil fuel era and ignite a just, renewable-energy revolution. Without executive action on fossil fuels, there's no way for the president to protect us from the climate emergency. We're calling on Biden to reclaim his power from coal- and gas-state Senators and show us he can be our Climate President."

According to organizers:

By refusing to stop major fossil fuel projects, President Biden has broken his promises to protect Indigneous rights, prioritize environmental justice, and fully address the climate crisis.

Despite the President's rhetoric, his administration has failed to stop major projects like the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, defended oil drilling in the Arctic, promoted fossil fuel exports, and allowed drilling, mining and fracking to continue on Native and public lands.

Meanwhile, the impacts of the climate and pollution crisis have only grown worse. Hurricanes have devastated communities from New Orleans to New York City. Wildfires have burned millions of acres across the West. Historic droughts and heatwaves have gripped most of the country. And every day, millions of Americans, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous People, breathe air and drink water poisoned by fossil fuel pollution.

As Common Dreams reported, over 300 scientists last week backed the demands of the coalition and said that to avert 'uncontrollable climate chaos,' Biden must move more swiftly and concretely to end the age of fossil fuels.

"U.S. scientists are done speaking calmly in the face of inaction," said Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and co-founder of the Concerned Health Professional of New York, who signed a letter alongside 337 colleagues. "Terrified by our own data, we stand in solidarity with the People vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization and its demands. President Biden, listening to science means acting on science. It means stopping new fossil fuel projects, opposing industry delay tactics, and declaring a national climate emergency."

Dr. Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity who also signed the letter, said, "When scientists across the U.S. are imploring the president to get the country off fossil fuels, it's time to listen."

Correction: This article has been updated to better describe the planned events in Washington, D.C. over the course of the week.

Trump promotion of Michigan rally decried as 'childish, petulant' and 'downright dangerous'

After former President Donald Trump urged supporters Friday to attend a rally on the steps of the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing next week in order to demand an audit of the 2020 election in which Trump was soundly defeated by President Joe Biden, at least one top Democrat in the state warns that the ongoing Republican obsession with what has become known as the "Big Lie" is a threat that cannot be ignored.

In his statement on Friday, Trump declared:

Big Michigan Rally coming up on Oct. 12th, on the Capitol steps in Lansing, where Patriots will demand a Forensic Audit of the 2020 Presidential Election Scam. The Voter Fraud is beyond what anyone can believe. Anyone who cares about our Great Country should attend, because unless we look to the past and fix what happened, we won't have a future or a Country.

While Tuesday's rally is being organized by the Election Integrity Fund & Force—a non-profit in the state that claims its goal is to curb "attempts to subvert the integrity of our elections"—Trump's promotion of it and his attendance, says state House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township), is as much about the former president's political future as it is about the GOP effort to sow continued doubt over Biden's victory in 2020.

"This is the same inflammatory rhetoric that brought men armed with assault rifles to these very steps last year and endangered the lives of our lawmakers and staff," warned Lasinski Friday night as she referenced events in April of 2020 when armed right-wing protesters stormed the State House as they objected to Covid-19 public health efforts.

"This childish, petulant behavior is not only embarrassingly unbecoming of a former president, it's downright dangerous," Lasinski added. "Efforts like this to undermine faith in our democracy are no longer just about overturning the 2020 election, they're about eroding trust and laying the groundwork to overturn the next election."

While right-wing extremists and GOP apologists for the former president "are stuck in the past reliving Trump's loss," Lasinksi said her party, both in Lansing and in the nation's capital, remain focused on the nation's future by "beating back Covid-19 and bringing billions in relief funding home from D.C. to deliver support for working families."

It was unclear how many might attend Tuesday's rally in Michigan, Trump is also in Iowa on Saturday for a similar campaign-style rally as chatter about the likelihood of his seeking to regain the presidency in 2024 intensifies.

Former aides to Trump have stated their belief that he will run again and a Pew survery out this week showed that despite his loss in 2020, 67 percent of Republicans "would like to see Trump continue to be a major political figure for many years to come" and 44 percent hope he leads the GOP ticket in 2024.

'Stop this madness': Outrage after appeals court reinstates Texas abortion ban

Reproductive rights advocates lashed out overnight following a ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which reinstated a near-total ban on abortion in Texas just days after a separate federal court had placed the state's law on hold pending final judicial review, most likely by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Friday night decision by the 5th Circuit—packed wiith judges appointed by former President Donald Trump and known as the nation's most right-wing appellate court—arrived two day after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin issued a 113-page ruling which granted the U.S. Justice Department's request for an injunction to halt the law, known as S.B. 8, which prevents providers from offering abortion care to women after just six weeks of pregnancy.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, responded with outrage to the 5th Circuit's ruling that has once again shut down the ability for women in the state to seek care to which they are constitutionally entitled.

"The Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness," said Northrup in a statement. "It's unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas."

After Wednesday's ruling by Judge Pitman, some clinics in the state attempted to deliver services that had been put on hold by the new law's implementation.

Noting that the 5th Circuit's ruling "had been expected by many abortion providers," the New York Times reported "at least six clinics in Texas had begun conducting abortions beyond the limits of the new law this week" while "most of the state's roughly two dozen providers had opted not to take that step as the case moved through the courts."

Northrup said the situation is untenable for women in Texas.

"Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear," she said, "and this cruel law is falling hardest on those who already face discriminatory obstacles in health care, especially Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, undocumented immigrants, young people, those struggling to make ends meet, and those in rural areas. The courts have an obligation to block laws that violate fundamental rights."

Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH) called the decision "devastating" but vowed to continue the legal battle as well as their mission to serve those Texans in need.

"Texas, there are organizers, lawyers, providers, and advocates around the country who are ready to continue following your lead and supporting your needs," the group tweeted last Friday. "We will keep going, together."

20 state AGs file suit over Dejoy plan to sabotage USPS

Twenty state Attorneys General on Friday filed a joint complaint in an effort to block changes to the U.S. Postal Service enacted last week by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and which critics warn are an overt effort to cripple the mail service from within by slowing delivery times while also increasing the cost to consumers.

The official complaint filed by the 20 AGs is directed at the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which is charged with providing independent oversight of the USPS, but which the suit alleges betrayed its mandate by allowing the controversial plan put forth by DeJoy to move into implementation on October 1 without proper review.

According to a statement from the office of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson:

The complaint details DeJoy's failure to follow federal law in making harmful Postal Service changes. Ferguson asserts these major Postal Service changes, which range from eliminating working hours, slowing delivery of first-class mail and removing equipment, threaten the timely delivery of mail to millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service for delivery of everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.

"Millions of Americans depend on the mail every day to receive their prescriptions, pay bills, receive Social Security checks, send rent payments and more," Ferguson said in the statement. "One political appointee does not get to decide the fate of the Postal Service. There is a process that demands accountability from the American public for a reason—and I will fight to ensure the public gets a say."

In addition to Washington, the complaint was backed by the Attorneys General of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Rhode Island.

The AG's suit comes amid a relentless barage of criticism aimed at DeJoy and demands for his ouster, as well ire aimed at the Postal Service Board of Governors, for putting forth a plan that experts on the USPS say is paving the pathway for the beloved agency's demise.

As Christoper S. Shaw, author of the the book First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams last week, "While previous postmasters generals sought faster mail delivery, DeJoy stands out for his wish to make it slower."

As Shaw's piece notes:

DeJoy claims that lowering service standards offers an outstanding opportunity to cut costs because hauling mail overland on trucks will prove cheaper than using air transportation. Lost in this short-term calculus is the cost to American citizens and to the health of the Postal Service in the long run. Degrading standards of service and discarding competitive advantages is not a formula for long-term relevance.

In response to the complaint, the USPS claimed the filing "has no legal or factual merit" and said "the Postal Service intends to move to dismiss it pursuant to the rules" of the PRC process.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, however, said in a statement that the changes made by DeJoy "destroy the timely mail service that people depend on for medications, bill payments, and business operations in rural parts" of his state. According to Stein's office:

The 10-year plan would undermine the Postal Service, including changes that would enact slower service standards for first-class mail and other packages, change the location of post offices, and adjust rates. The plan would slow down USPS standard delivery for 30 percent of mail from three days to five days, increase the price of each piece of mail by six to nine percent, and put these changes in place without doing anything to effectively address the larger Postal Service budget deficit.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is an independent federal agency that has oversight over the Postal Service's operations. Federal law requires the Postal Service to go to the Commission whenever it makes a change to postal services that will affect the entire country. The attorneys general contend that DeJoy failed to do so, and without the proper review, DeJoy's plan could lead to future problems with mail delivery. The attorneys general are requesting that the Commission order the Postal Service to request a review of the full extent of the ten-year plan, affording the States and the public an opportunity to provide comment.

"The Postal Service," said Stein, "is an essential government service, and it cannot restructure without considering how those changes will affect millions of Americans."

Progressives hold the line as 'Manchema' side with the rich against Biden Agenda

Political observers predicted three options late Thursday as it remained unclear whether Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would still hold a vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, or BIF, which has stirred a Capitol Hill fight between a small band of corporate Democrats in Congress and the rest of the party anchored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

As of this writing, there was no final word other than promises earlier in the day by Pelosi that a vote would come—even though fresh public comments from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) made it clear that a chasm remains between his opposition and that of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and House Democrats on the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act that must ultimately be passed via the bicameral reconciliation process.

According to Politico, a vote is possible, but it remains unclear where the votes would come from to see it pass. Citing sources, the outlet reported:

During a private leadership meeting Thursday morning, several members of Pelosi's team expressed reservations about bringing the bill to the floor given the lack of support within the caucus. But later, during a private meeting with moderate Democrats, Pelosi reiterated her intention to hold the vote later in the day, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.
How it could work: Multiple Democrats said one way it could work would be to hold the vote open until Pelosi can corral enough members for passage, whether that be from the progressive wing of the caucus or from Republicans who support the infrastructure bill. One member described it as a "staredown" strategy. Bring in the troops: Pelosi has also called in reinforcements from labor groups, who are sending letters to members of Congress urging them to support the bill.

The three most likely outcomes for a Thursday night vote include: 1) Pelosi pulls the scheduled vote from the floor because she knows she doesn't have the votes; 2) the vote is held and members of the CPC and other Democrats vote it down as they have promised to do; or 3) a vote is held and enough renegade Republicans join with some number of Democrats to sabotage the progressive efforts to block the bill before an agreement on reconciliation is reached.

Those likely scenarios were laid out, among others, by Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive advocacy group Indivisible, during an appearance on MSNBC's "The Beat" just after 6:00 pm ET where he told host Ari Melber that CPC members were right to be holding the line against Manchin and Sinema, increasingly referred to as "Manchema" by detractors in recent days. As he tweeted just ahead of his appearance:

In a political memo on Thursday, the advocacy group Accountable.US issued a warning—with a finger pointed directly at Manchin, Sinema, and a small group of Wall Street-back Democrats in the House—that big money was again sabotaging the democratic process in Washington, D.C. and at the worst possible moment. According to the memo:

It's not often stars align in favor of everyday working families, and it may not happen again for years. It makes no sense to squander this opportunity to level the playing field for everyday Americans after years of Washington keeping their thumb on the scale for millionaires and billion dollar corporations — especially wasteful tax breaks for the rich that never manage to trickle-down to anyone else.
And yet, there are some Democrats that are choosing to adopt the 'concerns' of the corporate special interests that have managed to do well even during a pandemic and effectively want to keep the system rigged in their favor. It's a red flag that money from greedy industries have corrupted the reconciliation process.

According to the analysis based on campaign finance data, "in August 2021 alone—in the heat of Congressional negotiations on the Build Back Better agenda—the moderate Democrats holding up the reconciliation process, including Sens. Sinema, Manchin, and U.S. Reps. Cuellar, Gonzalez, Gottheimer, Schrader, and Murphy, banked over $150,000 in campaign donations from corporate interests—including those that are helping lead business groups opposing the bill."

Appearing on MSNBC's "The ReidOut" just after 7:00 pm, CPC chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) reiterated the position that there will be no support for the BIF from progressives without the reconciliation package coming first. "This isn't some crazy idea," said Jayapal, "this is the president's agenda."

Other members of the CPC, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), spent the day also vowing to stand their ground and explaining why:

And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y) lashed out at the hypocrisy and irrational arguments of Manchin who has tried to claim that sweeping investments in pre-K education, healthcare for seniors, community college, and tackling the climate crisis are unaffordable.

"We won't let massive corporations, billionaires, and a few conservative Democrats stand in the way of delivering transformational progress for millions of working people," Japayal tweeted Thursday evening. "Stick to the plan. Pass both bills, together."

US retreat underway as Taliban retake control of Afghanistan

Nearly two full decades of lies and wishful thinking from U.S. generals, politicians, liberal interventionists, and neoconservative talking heads came into full view Sunday as the Taliban in Afghanistan surrounded Kabul while American military forces and diplomatic personnel rapidly evacuated the U.S. Embassy and the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani negotiated a surrender and transition government with opposition forces.

With reports that Bagram Air Base and nearby Parwan Prison had both fallen out of Afghan government hands, Taliban spokeperson Suhail Shaheen told the BBC that his group expects a peaceful transfer of power within days and assured the people of Afghanistan, including those in Kabul, that retribution and revenge would not follow.

"We assure the people in Afghanistan, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe. There will be no revenge on anyone," Shaheen said.

The Taliban leadership, he continued, has "instructed our forces to remain at the gates of Kabul" and that they had no plans yet to to enter the city. "We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power," Shaheen said.

Asked to explain what a "peaceful transfer of power" means in practice, he said: "It means that the city and the power should be handed over to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and then, in future, we will have an Afghan inclusion Islamic government in which all Afghans will have participation."

A press statement issued from the Taliban echoed that message, urging Afghans not to flee their own country and vowing that both their lives and property would not be threatened.


Subsequently—amid reports that President Ghani may have already left the country—Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal announced a "peaceful transfer of power" had been agreed to and that a transitional government was being formed.

"The Afghan people should not worry," Mirzakwal said in a recorded speech, according to Agence France-Presse.

"The safety of [Kabul] is guaranteed," he said."There will be no attack on the city, and the agreement is such that the transition of power will take place in a peaceful manner."


In recent days, anti-war voices who opposed the initial invasion in 2001 and have railed against the U.S. occupation ever since have pointed out the inevitability of what is now unfolding, the rapid return of Taliban rule despite twenty years—during which trillions of dollars were spent and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were lost—of U.S. military leaders claiming that some kind of victory was possible.


"The tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan are yet further proof of the utter failure of our country's endless wars and the mindset that enables them," said Stephen Miles, executive director of the U.S.-based group Win Without War, on Friday. "Nearly two decades of military intervention and occupation did not build lasting peace. No number of bombs dropped, no length of time occupied, would have."


On Sunday, veteran peace activist Medea Benjamin was among those wondering who—any one in the U.S. military or foreign policy establishment—would ever be held accountable for the deceit or failures in Afghanistan.

"Who is going to be fired for 20 years of horrific failure in Afghanistan?" Benjamin asked on social media. "Who would you suggest?"

In a separate Sunday morning tweet, Benjamin said: "As the blame game for the Afghan crisis heats up, I want to add all who supported this disastrous invasion from the beginning, including those who bashed us at anti-war protests. We were right, you were wrong. We should have never invaded Afghanistan. Period."


With a massive U.S. evacuation operation underway, the United Nations warned Saturday of the potential for a massive refugee crisis as many Afghans—not assured they will be safe or unwilling to live under Taliban rule—try to leave the country. On Friday, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on neighboring countries "to keep their borders open in light of the intensifying crisis" and warned that "inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives." The UNHCR said it was standing ready to help counties scale up their humanitarian and assistance efforts as needed.


In a statement issued by the White House on Saturday, President Joe Biden said the while he had mobilized approximately 5,000 U.S. soldiers to provide security and assist with the evacuation of Afghanistan he was not considering changing course to maintain the occupation of the country which has been ongoing since 2001.

"I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats," Biden said. "I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth."

'DeJoy and Bloom are bandits': Top Dem calls for removal of postal service chiefs

The removal of both U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Ron Bloom, chair of the Postal Service Board of Governors, was demanded Friday night after it was reported that DeJoy had purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of publicly-traded bonds from an investment firm for which Bloom is a managing partner—a transaction critics say is a gross breach of government ethics.

With Bloom and DeJoy—both appointed during former President Donald Trump's tenure—already under fire from defenders of the U.S. Postal Service for a scheme to slow mail service and undermine the nation's federal mailing system from within, the new reporting by the Washington Post revealed that DeJoy "purchased 11 bonds from Brookfield Asset Management each worth between $1,000 and $15,000, or $15,000 and $50,000" between October of 2020 and April of this year.

In total, the purchases totaled up to $305,000 during that period. In response to the reporting, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.)—who chairs the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, which has oversight of the Postal Service—ripped into both DeJoy and Bloom.

"This report is outrageous," Connolly tweeted Friday night. "DeJoy and Bloom are bandits, and their conflicts of interest do nothing but harm the Postal Service and the American people."

Both men, he added, "must be removed to restore the integrity of the USPS and #SaveThePostOffice."

According to the Post's Jacob Bogage and Douglas MacMillan:

Two ethics experts interviewed about the transaction disagreed over whether the bond purchases could cause conflict-of-interest issues in the agency's top ranks. One argued that the transactions raise questions about oversight and governance at the nation's mail service, which has taken on newfound prominence during the coronavirus pandemic and after the November election, in which nearly half of all voters cast their ballots through the mail. The other said financial connections between government officials could give off the appearance of conflicts without necessarily causing ethics problems.

Other elements of DeJoy's financial ties have drawn close examination from ethics watchdogs. DeJoy-controlled companies lease four office buildings to global shipping behemoth XPO Logistics, DeJoy's former company. XPO pays DeJoy more than $2 million annually in rent, The Washington Post previously reported. Brookfield also owns more than $500,000 in shares of XPO, according to its securities filings.

Bloom, who as chair of the USPS board ostensibly serves as DeJoy's boss, has expressed support for the controversial postmaster—a major GOP donor and Trump supporter—despite intense demands for his ouster ever since he moved to slow down mail delivery ahead of last year's election when an increase of voting by mail was expected due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I'm stuck on DeJoy's purchase of bonds from the company in which his quasi-boss is a managing partner," Kathleen Clark, a law professor who studies government ethics at Washington University, told the Post, "because I wonder whether it affects Bloom's ability to protect the public interest in his assessment of DeJoy's performance as postmaster general."


While an email from Bloom sent to the Post argued that "no basis of conflict" was created by the bond purchases and a USPS spokesperson said that DeJoy did not directly order the purchases that were made on his behalf by his financial advisers, Clark said that does not absolve the clear ethical concerns.

"He's claiming that his agent didn't act on his specific direction," Clark said of DeJoy's involvement. "That's not good enough for federal government ethics."

On Friday evening, Bogage announced via social media that a slight addition had been made to his and MacMillan's earlier story after learning of new information about ethics at the USPS under DeJoy.


"This is 100% true," Bogage wrote. "Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced today that next week would be 'Ethics Awareness Week' at USPS."

Progressive Nina Turner earns July 4 endorsement of largest Ohio newspaper

Nina Turner, running for U.S. Congress in Ohio's 11th district, won the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper Sunday—the latest show of momentum for the progressive champion who has been targeted for defeat by the Democratic Party's more corporate-friendly establishment wing.

Citing the "pioneering civil rights legacy of the late U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes of Cleveland," who served constituents in the district that spans portions of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County for 15 terms from 1968 to 1999, the Cleveland Plain Dealer endorsed Turner on July 4th by saying she would be the best candidate to replicate Stokes' ability "to speak out for the rights, needs and interests of urban, largely poor constituents of color, too often neglected in the business of the U.S. Congress."

According to the paper's editorial:

Who best among the 13 Democrats on the Aug. 3 special primary ballot seeking the Democratic nod for this overwhelmingly Democratic district to carry on that legacy?

There is one person in this crowded field who has shown she isn't afraid to stand up to power and to partisan shibboleths, who has the guts to say what she thinks and do what's right for her constituents and country, who is passionate about public service and knows the issues, the personalities, the challenges better than anyone else in this race.

That person is Nina Turner.

The endorsement for the former state senator and national co-chair of Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign comes ahead of next month's special election to replace former Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, now serving as secretary for Housing and Urban Development in the Biden administration, and as establishment members of the party—including Hillary Clinton and Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina—have moved against her candidacy.


While the paper advised Turner that she should come closer "to the center," where the Plain Dealer claimed many Ohio voters in the district are, and urged her to be more "practical, not ideological," the endorsement ultimately said that the 11th District "doesn't need someone who will shrink into a corner of the Capitol once in office."

"Turner is the heavyweight in this primary race," the editorial continued, "compared with its other big fundraiser, Shontel Brown, 46, of Warrensville Heights. Brown is a pleasant but undistinguished member of Cuyahoga County Council who has little to show for her time in office..."

Turner welcomed the endorsement on Sunday.

"Today our movement received the endorsement of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Thank you!" she tweeted. "We have an historic opportunity to deliver an agenda that puts working people at the center of our economy. To get there we need a Congress made up of leaders who never forget their purpose."

"Together," Turner continued, "we will deliver on an opportunity agenda that lifts our communities and builds an economy based on our shared prosperity, healthcare and education for all, living wages, a healthy planet, and fairness in our systems of policing and public safety."

Ocasio-Cortez: 'Elephant in the room' is Senate Democrats blocking their own party's agenda

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave voice Sunday to the growing frustration among progressives due to Democratic Senators who have become the clear obstructionists in enacting the bold agenda they promised U.S. voters in last year's election.

Following a morning appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Ocasio-Cortez said Democrats "have an obligation to do the most we can for working people, civil right, and the planet with the power people have entrusted us, and stressed during her television appearance that her side of the aisle should bend no further to the demands of a minority Republican Party that has a demonstrated history of acting in bad faith while making clear that defeating progress on key issues like infrastructure, healthcare, climate action, and pro-democracy reforms is its top priority.

Asked if she would possibly vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal unveiled last week by a small group of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate—one that features just $580 billion in new spending, compared to the Biden administration's original $2.3 trillion package, and includes no new taxes—Ocasio-Cortez said, "I doubt it, frankly" as she highlighted the specific lack of climate action contained in the deal.

"I think one of the things that's really important to communicate is this isn't just $1.7 trillion," the congresswoman said. "This is about an overall investment spread out anywhere between eight and 10 years, which is a very, very low amount of money. It's not going to create the millions of union jobs that we need in this country, particularly to recover from the pandemic. And it's not going to get us closer to meeting our climate goals, which are crucially important at this point in time."

While CNN host Dana Bash pushed Ocasio-Cortez on whether she would vote for a compromised, watered-down infrastructure plan if progressives are told that's the best it's going to get, the New York Democrat responded, "Well, I think the thing is, is that this isn't the best that we can get." And then she turned her focus to Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, and others in the caucus—who have refused to embrace a more bold and visionary set of policies in the name of compromise with the GOP.

"I do think that we need to talk about the elephant in the room," said Ocasio-Cortez, "which is Senate Democrats blocking crucial items in a Democratic agenda for reasons that I don't think hold a lot of water."

"And for folks saying, 'OK, where are you going to get these 50 votes?'" she continued, "I think we really need to start asking some of these Democratic senators where they plan on getting 60 votes. These 10 Republican senators that there is a theory that we're going to get support for that out there, I think, is a claim that doesn't really hold water, particularly when we can't even get 10 senators to support a January 6 commission."


Ocasio-Cortez went on to say that the U.S. is now at a "fork in the road" and asked the question: "Do we settle for much less and an infrastructure package that has been largely designed by Republicans in order to get 60 votes, or can we really transform this country, create millions of union jobs, revamp our power grid, get people's bridges fixed and schools rebuilt with 51 or 50 Democratic votes?"

"The argument that we need to make here," she said, "is that it's worth going it alone if we can do more for working people in this country. You know, with 50 votes, we have the potential to lower the age of Medicare eligibility, so that more people can be covered and guaranteed to their right to health care, as opposed to 60 votes, where we do very, very little, and the scope of that is defined by a Republican minority that has not been elected to lead."

After the bipartisan group put out a rough framework of its infrastructure deal last week, progressive lawmakers like Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) made clear they would oppose any bill that short-changed the climate crisis.

Asked Sunday about Manchin's stance in particular—including his opposition not only to filibuster reform and a bold infrastructure package but also his vow to block The For the People Act, the Democrat's key voting rights legislation—Ocasio-Cortez did not shy away from recent comments she made insinuating that the West Virginia Democrat's positions are due, at least in part, to his subservience to corporate interests and deep-pocketed funders like billionaire Charles Koch and his network of dark money groups.

"I believe that we have the influence of big money that impacts not just one party, but both parties in the United States Congress," she said. "And I do believe that that old way of politics has absolutely an influence in Joe Manchin's thinking and the way he navigates the body."

There's a reason, she said, that "the Koch brothers and associated organizations from the Koch brothers are really doing victory laps about Joe Manchin's opposition to the filibuster."

Watch the full interview:

Ocasio-Cortez accuses some Senate Democrats of blocking legislation



Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) criticized the Senate Democrats pushing for bipartisan compromise saying they are helping block key legislation in the D...

G7 judged a 'colossal failure' on climate and COVID-19 emergencies

Anti-poverty groups, climate campaigners, and public health experts reacted with outrage and howls of disappointment Sunday after the G7 leaders who spent the weekend at a summit in Cornwall, England issued a final communique that critics said represents an extreme abdication of responsibility in the face of the world's most pressing and intertwined crises—savage economic inequality, a rapidly-heating planet, and the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

"This G7 summit will live on in infamy," declared Max Lawson, Oxfam's head of inequality policy, in a statement responding to the G7 communique at the conclusion of the weekend summit—a gathering characterized by the global progressive movement as an unmitigated disaster compared to what could have been achieved.

"Faced with the biggest health emergency in a century and a climate catastrophe that is destroying our planet," Lawson said, the leaders of the richest nations "have completely failed to meet the challenges of our times. Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world. In the face of these challenges the G7 have chosen to cook the books on vaccines and continue to cook the planet. We don't need to wait for history to judge this summit a colossal failure, it is plain for all to see."

While the G7 statement vows to "[e]nd the pandemic and prepare for the future by driving an intensified international effort, starting immediately, to vaccinate the world by getting as many safe vaccines to as many people as possible as fast as possible"—and the member nations pledged a collective 1 billion doses will be donated to benefit middle- and low-income nations—public health experts have been adamant voluntary charity and empty rhetoric—especially in the the absence of a joint commitment to lift patent protections for life-saving vaccines at the World Trade Organization—makes clear the richest nations would still rather protect the profits of the pharmaceutical industry than serve the world's poor or see the pandemic eviscerated.


On Sunday, Global Justice Now executive director Nick Dearden—who has been on the ground in Cornwall throughout the summit—called the communique "shameful," a document that "stresses 'vaccines are a public good' and 'we need equitable access' while then reinforcing the intellectual property system which enshrines the very opposite principles."

"The G7 is not fit for purpose," Dearden tweeted. "They have operated without any concern for lives around the world—or even for our own ability to end this pandemic." Dearden said it was now clear that "profits first" is the true commitment of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the other G7 leaders, and Global Justice Now suggested the only people who will be celebrating the bloc's lack of ambition will be Big Pharma and its allies:


Meanwhile, the G7's specific response to the climate crisis was seen as paltry, even if a modest step in the right direction. Thousands of climate activists demonstrated Saturday to demand the G7 leaders finally match their actions with some of their recent promises, but again the ambitions put forth Sunday by U.S. President Joe Biden, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and the other powerful leaders was seen as more of the same kind of failure that has become all to familiar.

"This summit feels like a broken record of the same old promises," said John Sauven, Greenpeace UK's executive director. "There's a new commitment to ending overseas investment in coal, which is their piece de resistance. But without agreeing to end all new fossil fuel projects— something that must be delivered this year if we are to limit dangerous rises in global temperature—this plan falls very short."

The G7 plan touted by its members on Sunday, said Sauven, "doesn't go anywhere near far enough when it comes to a legally binding agreement to stop the decline of nature by 2030. And the finance being offered to poorer nations is simply not new, nor enough, to match the scale of the climate crisis."

Despite the G7 communique's new pledge to end future financing of coal projects worldwide and restating its Paris Agreement pledge to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 ºC by 2050, those promises fall intensely short of what the scientific community says is necessary to address the climate emergency.

"The G7 has now fallen squarely behind what leading economists, energy analysts, and global civil society has shown is required: an end to public finance for all fossil fuels," said Laurie van der Burg, senior campaigner for Oil Change International, on Sunday. "Our climate cannot afford further delay, and the failure of the G7 to heed these demands means more people impacted by the ravages of our climate chaos."

"Between 2017 and 2019, G7 nations spent $86 billion in public finance for fossil fuels," van der Burg continued. "Every single cent of that makes it harder to reach our climate goals. That's why more than one hundred economists as well as hundreds of civil society organizations from around the globe called on these leaders to end this public support for dirty fuels and shift this money to real solutions. Unfortunately those calls were not met with action, and our climate and communities—particularly the most vulnerable in the Global South—will feel the consequences."

Swedish climate activist and Fridays for Future co-founder Greta Thunberg also weighed in:


David Turnbull, Oil Change's strategic communications director, put specific emphasis on Biden's responsibility heading into the summit—his first overseas trip as U.S. President—and his failure to seize the historic moment or establish himself as a truly transformational leader on the global stage.

"Biden's first trip abroad unfortunately can be chalked up as a missed opportunity," Turnbull said. "Despite strong statements about ending U.S. international support for all fossil fuels in the first few months of his administration, President Biden has yet to turn those statements into true action. The G7 was a key moment to show that the U.S. can be a leader in moving the world forward on bold climate action, and unfortunately that leadership has not yet revealed itself."

The lack of funding for climate adaptation for poorer nations—those that have done the least to create the climate threat but suffer the most because of it—was also highlighted by Oxfam International.

"This plan could support green development in poorer countries," said Oxfam's climate change lead Nafkote Dabi, "but it is lacking in detail including on who will foot the bill. It also appears to champion infrastructure to reduce emissions, while many communities are screaming out for support to adapt to the impacts of climate change—an area that remains woefully underfunded."

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, made the explicit connection between poverty, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the climate emergency.

"Everyone is being hit by Covid-19 and worsening climate impacts," Morgan said, "but it is the most vulnerable who are fairing the worst due to G7 leaders sleeping on the job. We need authentic leadership and that means treating the pandemic and the climate crisis for what they are: an interconnected inequality emergency."

"The solutions to the climate emergency are clear and available," she continued, "but the G7's refusal to do what's needed is leaving the world's vulnerable behind. To fight COVID-19, supporting a TRIPS waiver for a People's Vaccine is crucial. To lead us out of the climate emergency, the G7 needed to deliver clear plans to quickly phase out fossil fuels and commitments to immediately stop all new fossil fuel development with a just transition."

Where, she asked, "is the clear national implementation with deadlines and where is the climate finance so urgently needed for the most vulnerable countries?"

According to the global movement for climate action and a just solution to the pandemic, such things are not to be found in anything that came out of Cornwall over the weekend.

'Keystone XL is dead!': Climate movement secures major victory after 10-year battle

After more than a decade of grassroots organizing, agitation, and tireless opposition by the international climate movement, the final nail was slammed into the Keystone XL's coffin Wednesday afternoon when the company behind the transnational tar sands pipeline officially pulled the plug on its plans.

Following consultation with Canadian officials and regulators—including "its partner, the Government of Alberta"—TC Energy confirmed its "termination" of the project in a statement citing the revocation of a federal U.S. permit by President Joe Biden on his first day in office on January 20 as the leading reason.

Climate campaigners, however, were immediate in claiming a final victory after years of struggle against the company and its backers both in Washington, D.C. and Ottawa.

"TC Energy just confirmed what we already knew but it's a thrilling reality all the same—the Keystone XL pipeline is no more and never will be," said David Turnbull, strategic communications director with Oil Change International (OCI).

"After more than 10 years of organizing we have finally defeated an oil giant, Keystone XL is dead!" declared the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) in reaction. "We are dancing in our hearts because of this victory! From Dene territories in Northern Alberta to Indigenous lands along the Gulf of Mexico, we stood hand-in-hand to protect the next seven generations of life, the water and our communities from this dirty tar sands pipeline. And that struggle is vindicated."

IEN said that the win over TC Energy and its supporters was "not the end—but merely the beginning of further victories," and also reminded the world that there are "still frontline Indigenous water protectors like Oscar High Elk who face charges for standing against the Keystone XL pipeline."

Calling the news "yet another huge moment in an historic effort," Turnbull at OCI said that while the Canadian company's press statement failed to admit it, "this project is finally being abandoned thanks to more than a decade of resistance from Indigenous communities, landowners, farmers, ranchers, and climate activists along its route and around the world."

Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, declared the victory in the drawn-out battle—which largely took place under the Democratic administration of former President Barack Obama—"a landmark moment in the fight against the climate crisis."

"We need to keep moving away from dirty, dangerous pipelines that lock us into an unsustainable future," added Margolis, who said he now hopes President Joe Biden will take this lesson and apply to other polluting fossil projects. "We're hopeful that the Biden administration will continue to shift this country in the right direction by opposing fossil fuel projects that threaten our climate, our waters and imperiled wildlife," he said. "Good riddance to Keystone XL!"

Jamie Henn and Bill McKibben, both co-founders of 350.org and key architects of the decision to make the Keystone XL pipeline a target and symbol of the global climate movement, also heralded the news.

"When this fight began, people thought Big Oil couldn't be beat." —Bill McKibben, 350.org co-founder

"When this fight began, people thought Big Oil couldn't be beat," said McKibben, who was among those arrested outside the White House in 2011 protesting the pipeline.

"Keystone XL is now the most famous fossil fuel project killed by the climate movement, but it won't be the last," said Henn. "The same coalition that stopped this pipeline is now battling Line 3 and dozens of other fossil fuel projects across the country. Biden did the right thing on KXL, now it's time to go a step further and say no to all new fossil fuel projects everywhere."

Clayton Thomas Muller, another longtime KXL opponent and currently a senior campaigns specialist at 350.org in Canada, said: "This victory is thanks to Indigenous land defenders who fought the Keystone XL pipeline for over a decade. Indigenous-led resistance is critical in the fight against the climate crisis and we need to follow the lead of Indigenous peoples, particularly Indigenous women, who are leading this fight across the continent and around the world. With Keystone XL cancelled, it's time to turn our attention to the Indigenous-led resistance to the Line 3 and the Trans Mountain tar sands pipelines."

McKibben also made the direct connection to KXL and the decision now looming before Biden when it comes to Line 3 in northern Minnesota. "When enough people rise up we're stronger even than the richest fossil fuel companies," he said. "And by the way, the same climate test that ruled out Keystone should do the same for Line 3."

Economic devastation from climate crisis will be like two COVID pandemics per year by 2050: analysis

New research by global insurance giant Swiss RE warns that the looming devastation of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and the climate crisis could result in economic retractions twice as potent as the global recession unleashed by Covid-19—a calamity, unlike the pandemic, which could go on for many years without end.

Analyzing the figures compiled in a research report (pdf) by Zurich-based Swiss RE, Oxfam International said while the world's poorest nations will be hardest hit, even the rich nations—like those of the G7 meeting this week in the United Kingdom—will not be spared from the economic pain that will come if world temperatures rise by 2.6ºC that some scenarios predict.

According to Oxfam, economies of the G7 nations could see an average loss of 8.5 percent annually by the middle of the century―equivalent to $4.8 trillion―if more urgent action to address global warming is not taken immediately.

The international aid and anti-poverty group said this potential drop in GDP is double that of the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in an average 4.2% reduction among G7 nations, recessions that resulted "in staggering job losses and some of the largest economic stimulus packages ever seen." But, Oxfam added, "economies are expected to bounce back from the short-term effects of the pandemic, the effects of climate change will be seen every year."

The devastation for poor nations would be enormous.

"The economic turmoil projected in wealthy G7 countries is only the tip of the iceberg: many poorer parts of the world will see increasing deaths, hunger and poverty as a result of extreme weather," said Max Lawson, head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam, in a statement. "This year could be a turning point if governments grasp the challenge to create a safer more liveable planet for all."

As the group's analysis notes:

  • India could lose 27% from its economy.
  • Australia, South Africa and South Korea are projected to lose 12.5, 17.8 and 9.7% respectively.
  • The Philippines is projected to lose 35%
  • Colombia is projected to lose 16.7%

Jerome Haegeli, a chief economist at Swiss Re involved with the research, told the Guardian that: "Climate change is the long-term number one risk to the global economy, and staying where we are is not an option—we need more progress by the G7. That means not just obligations on cutting CO2 but helping developing countries too, that's super-important."

The research from Swiss RE, as Oxfam details,

modelled the economic impacts of climate change on 48 countries in four different temperature paths and used different impact scenarios to account for the large parameter uncertainty and missing climate impact channels usually present in the climate economics literature. The projections used in this press release assume high stress factors and global warming of 2.6°C by mid-century, which is a level of warming that could be reached based on current policies and climate pledges from all countries. All figures relate to real GDP. The GDP projections compare a warmer world with a world unaffected by climate change.

Ahead of the G7 summit in the U.K., global climate campaigners have continued to urge the world's richest and most powerful nations—also its largest emitters—to not only commit to stronger pledges on reducing fossil fuel pollution, but to increase their financial pledges to the developing world that have contributed far less to the climate crisis but continue to face its most devastating impacts.

Bill Gates comes under fire after comments on the global vaccine shortage

Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men and most powerful philanthropists, was the target of criticism from social justice campaigners on Sunday after arguing that lifting patent protections on Covid-19 vaccine technology and sharing recipes with the world to foster a massive ramp up in manufacturing and distribution—despite a growing international call to do exactly that—is a bad idea.

Directly asked during an interview with Sky News if he thought it "would be helpful" to have vaccine recipes be shared, Gates quickly answered: "No."

Asked to explain why not, Gates—whose massive fortune as founder of Microsoft relies largely on intellectual property laws that turned his software innovations into tens of billions of dollars in personal wealth—said that: "Well, there's only so many vaccine factories in the world and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines. And so moving something that had never been done—moving a vaccine, say, from a [Johnson & Johnson] factory into a factory in India—it's novel—it's only because of our grants and expertise that that can happen at all."

The reference is to the Serum factory in India, the largest such institute in the country, which has contracts with AstraZeneca to manufacture their Covid-19 vaccine, known internationally as Covishield.

The thing that's holding "things back" in terms of the global vaccine rollout, continued Gates, "is not intellectual property. It's not like there's some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval, that makes magically safe vaccines. You know, you've got to do the trial on these things. Every manufacturing process needs to be looked at in a very careful way."

Critical advocates for robust and immediate change to intellectual property protections at the World Trade Organization when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines, however, issued scathing indictments of Gates' defense of the status quo.

Nick Dearden, executive director of Global Justice Now, one of the lead partner groups in an international coalition calling for WTO patent waivers at a crucial meeting of the world body next month, characterized Gates' remarks—and the ideological framework behind them—as "disgusting."

"Who appointed this billionaire head of global health?" asked Dearden. "Oh yeah, he did."

Journalist Stephen Buryani, who on Saturday wrote an in-depth Guardian column on the urgent need for the patent waivers and technology sharing, offered a similarly negative view of the billionaire's "awful" arguments against sharing the vaccine technology.

Gates, charged Buryani, "acts like an optimist but has a truly dismal vision of the world."

During the Sky News interview, Gates said it was "not completely surprising" that the richest nations like U.S., U.K., and others in Europe vaccinated their populations first. He said that made sense because the pandemic was worse in those countries, but said he believed that "within three or four months the vaccine allocation will be getting to all the countries that have the very severe epidemic."

Watch the full interview:

COVID-19: Bill Gates hopeful world 'completely back to normal' by end of 2022 www.youtube.com

Offering his interpretation of what Gates was actually throughout the interview, Buryani paraphrased it this way: "We can't make more vaccines, we can't compromise profits, we can't trust poor countries with our technology, and they'll get their scraps after we eat."

"The poverty of vision from [Gates] and other 'leaders' has been astounding," added Buryani. "Smallpox, Polio, both had joined-up responses that shared knowledge and technology across the world. We're happy to let the *pharma* market sort out the biggest crisis of our lifetimes. Totally on autopilot."

While public health experts agree that developing nations may not have the current know-how or capacity to produce advanced vaccines at scale, they argue that is also the result of policy choices that governments and others have made. Earlier this month 66 organizations called on the U.S. to initiate a global vaccine manufacturing program that, in tandem with patent waivers and recipe sharing, would pave the way for ramped up capacity.

"The U.S. government has helped produce hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for people living in the U.S., on a relatively short timeline. The same is needed—and within reach—for all countries," said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines program, at the time. "The key missing ingredient is ambitious political leadership, to end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere."

Meanwhile, in a detailed online social media thread earlier this month, journalist and activist Cory Doctor stated that while numerous "people helped create our 'Vaccine Apartheid,' the single individual who did the most to get us here is Bill Gates, through his highly ideological 'philanthropic' foundation, which exists to push his pitiless doctrine of unfettered monopoly."

Doctorow also pointed people to a feature in The New Republic by Alexander Zaitchik earlier this month which details Gates has long used his "hallowed foundation" and position as the "world's de facto public health czar" to defend the intellectual property regime that is now central to the fight between those defending "Vaccine Apartheid" on the one hand and international campaigners fighting for a "People's Vaccine" that would unleash the life-saving inoculations from their corporate masters in the pharmaceutical industry.

According to Zaitchik:

In April [of 2020], Bill Gates launched a bold bid to manage the world's scientific response to the pandemic. Gates's Covid-19 ACT-Accelerator expressed a status quo vision for organizing the research, development, manufacture, and distribution of treatments and vaccines. Like other Gates-funded institutions in the public health arena, the Accelerator was a public-private partnership based on charity and industry enticements. Crucially, and in contrast to the C-TAP, the Accelerator enshrined Gates's long-standing commitment to respecting exclusive intellectual property claims. Its implicit arguments—that intellectual property rights won't present problems for meeting global demand or ensuring equitable access, and that they must be protected, even during a pandemic—carried the enormous weight of Gates's reputation as a wise, beneficent, and prophetic leader.
How he's developed and wielded this influence over two decades is one of the more consequential and underappreciated shapers of the failed global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Entering year two, this response has been defined by a zero-sum vaccination battle that has left much of the world on the losing side.

Quoted in the piece is James Love, founder and director of Knowledge Ecology International, which studies public policy and intellectual property as it intersects with public health and the drug industry. Love explains just how powerful the influence of Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been in curtailing the conversation around I.P. and vaccines.

"If you said to an ordinary person, 'We're in a pandemic. Let's figure out everyone who can make vaccines and give them everything they need to get online as fast as possible,' it would be a no-brainer," Love told TNR. "But Gates won't go there. Neither will the people dependent on his funding. He has immense power. He can get you fired from a U.N. job. He knows that if you want to work in global public health, you'd better not make an enemy of the Gates Foundation by questioning its positions on I.P. and monopolies. And there are a lot of advantages to being on his team. It's a sweet, comfortable ride for a lot of people."

Back at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020, said Love, "Things could have gone either way, but Gates wanted exclusive rights maintained." That, argues, was crucial in terms of what has happened since.

As Doctorow also suggests in his exploration of the issue, the fix was in from the beginning in terms of intellectual property and the Covid-19 pandemic and nobody should take seriously Gates' argument that there's simply not enough time to make lifting patent protections a priority at this point.

"Having sabotaged the efforts by poor countries to engage in the kind of production ramp-up the rich world saw as vaccines were being developed, it may NOW be too late," tweeted Doctorow. "Because of my bad ideas THEN, it's too late NOW."

Share vaccine recipes with poor during pandemic? One of world's richest men says 'no'

Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men and most powerful philanthropists, was the target of criticism from social justice campaigners on Sunday after arguing that lifting patent protections on Covid-19 vaccine technology and sharing recipes with the world to foster a massive ramp up in manufacturing and distribution—despite a growing international call to do exactly that—is a bad idea.

Directly asked during an interview with Sky News if he thought it "would be helpful" to have vaccine recipes be shared, Gates quickly answered: "No."

Asked to explain why not, Gates—whose massive fortune as founder of Microsoft relies largely on intellectual property laws that turned his software innovations into tens of billions of dollars in personal wealth—said that: "Well, there's only so many vaccine factories in the world and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines. And so moving something that had never been done—moving a vaccine, say, from a [Johnson & Johnson] factory into a factory in India—it's novel—it's only because of our grants and expertise that that can happen at all."

The reference is to the Serum factory in India, the largest such institute in the country, which has contracts with AstraZeneca to manufacture their Covid-19 vaccine, known internationally as Covishield.

The thing that's holding "things back" in terms of the global vaccine rollout, continued Gates, "is not intellectual property. It's not like there's some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval, that makes magically safe vaccines. You know, you've got to do the trial on these things. Every manufacturing process needs to be looked at in a very careful way."

Critical advocates for robust and immediate change to intellectual property protections at the World Trade Organization when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines, however, issued scathing indictments of Gates' defense of the status quo.


Nick Dearden, executive director of Global Justice Now, one of the lead partner groups in an international coalition calling for WTO patent waivers at a crucial meeting of the world body next month, characterized Gates' remarks—and the ideological framework behind them—as "disgusting."

"Who appointed this billionaire head of global health?" asked Dearden. "Oh yeah, he did."

Journalist Stephen Buryani, who on Saturday wrote an in-depth Guardian column on the urgent need for the patent waivers and technology sharing, offered a similarly negative view of the billionaire's "awful" arguments against sharing the vaccine technology.

Gates, charged Buryani, "acts like an optimist but has a truly dismal vision of the world."

During the Sky News interview, Gates said it was "not completely surprising" that the richest nations like U.S., U.K., and others in Europe vaccinated their populations first. He said that made sense because the pandemic was worse in those countries, but said he believed that "within three or four months the vaccine allocation will be getting to all the countries that have the very severe epidemic."

Watch the full interview:


COVID-19: Bill Gates hopeful world 'completely back to normal' by end of 2022 www.youtube.com

Offering his interpretation of what Gates was actually throughout the interview, Buryani paraphrased it this way: "We can't make more vaccines, we can't compromise profits, we can't trust poor countries with our technology, and they'll get their scraps after we eat."


"The poverty of vision from [Gates] and other 'leaders' has been astounding," added Buryani. "Smallpox, Polio, both had joined-up responses that shared knowledge and technology across the world. We're happy to let the *pharma* market sort out the biggest crisis of our lifetimes. Totally on autopilot."

While public health experts agree that developing nations may not have the current know-how or capacity to produce advanced vaccines at scale, they argue that is also the result of policy choices that governments and others have made. Earlier this month 66 organizations called on the U.S. to initiate a global vaccine manufacturing program that, in tandem with patent waivers and recipe sharing, would pave the way for ramped up capacity.

"The U.S. government has helped produce hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for people living in the U.S., on a relatively short timeline. The same is needed—and within reach—for all countries," said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines program, at the time. "The key missing ingredient is ambitious political leadership, to end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere."

Meanwhile, in a detailed online social media thread earlier this month, journalist and activist Cory Doctor stated that while numerous "people helped create our 'Vaccine Apartheid,' the single individual who did the most to get us here is Bill Gates, through his highly ideological 'philanthropic' foundation, which exists to push his pitiless doctrine of unfettered monopoly."


Doctorow also pointed people to a feature in The New Republic by Alexander Zaitchik earlier this month which details Gates has long used his "hallowed foundation" and position as the "world's de facto public health czar" to defend the intellectual property regime that is now central to the fight between those defending "Vaccine Apartheid" on the one hand and international campaigners fighting for a "People's Vaccine" that would unleash the life-saving inoculations from their corporate masters in the pharmaceutical industry.


According to Zaitchik:

In April [of 2020], Bill Gates launched a bold bid to manage the world's scientific response to the pandemic. Gates's Covid-19 ACT-Accelerator expressed a status quo vision for organizing the research, development, manufacture, and distribution of treatments and vaccines. Like other Gates-funded institutions in the public health arena, the Accelerator was a public-private partnership based on charity and industry enticements. Crucially, and in contrast to the C-TAP, the Accelerator enshrined Gates's long-standing commitment to respecting exclusive intellectual property claims. Its implicit arguments—that intellectual property rights won't present problems for meeting global demand or ensuring equitable access, and that they must be protected, even during a pandemic—carried the enormous weight of Gates's reputation as a wise, beneficent, and prophetic leader.

How he's developed and wielded this influence over two decades is one of the more consequential and underappreciated shapers of the failed global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Entering year two, this response has been defined by a zero-sum vaccination battle that has left much of the world on the losing side.

Quoted in the piece is James Love, founder and director of Knowledge Ecology International, which studies public policy and intellectual property as it intersects with public health and the drug industry. Love explains just how powerful the influence of Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been in curtailing the conversation around I.P. and vaccines.

"If you said to an ordinary person, 'We're in a pandemic. Let's figure out everyone who can make vaccines and give them everything they need to get online as fast as possible,' it would be a no-brainer," Love told TNR. "But Gates won't go there. Neither will the people dependent on his funding. He has immense power. He can get you fired from a U.N. job. He knows that if you want to work in global public health, you'd better not make an enemy of the Gates Foundation by questioning its positions on I.P. and monopolies. And there are a lot of advantages to being on his team. It's a sweet, comfortable ride for a lot of people."

Back at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020, said Love, "Things could have gone either way, but Gates wanted exclusive rights maintained." That, argues, was crucial in terms of what has happened since.

As Doctorow also suggests in his exploration of the issue, the fix was in from the beginning in terms of intellectual property and the Covid-19 pandemic and nobody should take seriously Gates' argument that there's simply not enough time to make lifting patent protections a priority at this point.

"Having sabotaged the efforts by poor countries to engage in the kind of production ramp-up the rich world saw as vaccines were being developed, it may NOW be too late," tweeted Doctorow. "Because of my bad ideas THEN, it's too late NOW."

'Utterly disgusting': Big Pharma lobby blitz against vaccine patent waivers denounced

As campaigners worldwide continue their efforts to unleash live-saving vaccine patents and technology from the profitable control of major pharmaceutical corporations this week, new reporting by The Intercept details the "army of lobbyists" Big Pharma has aimed at U.S. lawmakers in order to kneecap the global push to lift intellectual property through a waiver at the World Trade Organization.

"We have multiple safe and effective vaccines, what we lack now is the political will to increase their supply and facilitate the distribution of these vaccines everywhere."
—Abby Maxman, Oxfam AmericaIn a story published Friday, journalist Lee Fang cites "newly filed disclosure forms from the first quarter of 2021" to reveal that "over 100 lobbyists have been mobilized to contact lawmakers and members of the Biden administration, urging them to oppose a proposed temporary waiver" of patent protections at the WTO—a push led by India and South Africa and backed by the World Health Organization, over a hundred nations, and public health experts and justice advocates worldwide.

According to Fang's reporting:

Pharmaceutical lobbyists working against the proposal include Mike McKay, a key fundraiser for House Democrats, now working on retainer for Pfizer, as well as several former staff members to the U.S. Office of Trade Representative, which oversees negotiations with the WTO.

Several trade groups funded by pharmaceutical firms have also focused closely on defeating the generic proposal, new disclosures show. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the International Intellectual Property Alliance, which all receive drug company money, have dispatched dozens of lobbyists to oppose the initiative.

In response to the revelations, Heidi Chow, senior policy and campaign manager for the U.K.-based Global Justice Now, called the corporate lobbying blitz fighting against increased vaccine production "utterly disgusting and immoral" amid a global pandemic that has already claimed north of 3 million lives worldwide.

"Millions continue to die because pharma monopolies have created vaccine scarcity in the global south," tweeted Chow. "We need a #PeoplesVaccine."

Shailly Gupta, communications adviser to the Access Campaign with Doctors Without Borders, which advocates for a global system in which vaccine technology is made universally available to the world's poorest nations, also shared Fang's story as she bemoaned the "pandemic profiteering" it represents.


On Friday, as Common Dreams reported, Sen. Bernie Sanders led other U.S. lawmakers in Congress in a demand to the Biden administration to back the WTO waiver as they presented a petition signed by over 2 million people.

"We have the tools to save human lives, and those tools should be readily available to all people," said Sanders during an online event Friday. "Poor people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and throughout the world have as much a right to be protected from the virus, to live, as people in wealthier nations. To me, this is not a huge debate, this is common human morality."

Abby Maxman, president and CEO Oxfam America and who also participated in the event, said, "We have multiple safe and effective vaccines, what we lack now is the political will to increase their supply and facilitate the distribution of these vaccines everywhere." President Biden, she urged, "must seize this historic opportunity to mobilize vaccine access to all by supporting the WTO proposal by South Africa, India, and others to temporarily waive intellectual property rights related to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to encourage generic manufacturing in their own markets."

But even as the international movement for the WTO waiver has gained steam, including in the U.S., Fang reports how the effort "has encountered fierce opposition from leading drug companies, who stand to lose profit and who fear that allowing a waiver would lead to less stringent IP enforcement in the future."


In a column for The Guardian on Saturday, science and environmental writer Stephen Buranyi argues the intransigence of the wealthy nations "seems mind-bogglingly shortsighted." According to Buranyi:

The world desperately needs coronavirus vaccines. About 430m doses have been produced so far this year, enough for about 215 million people. And of the doses already given, about half have gone to the richest 16% of the world's population. Covax, the World Health Organization initiative to transfer vaccines to nations in need, has delivered just 38m doses. According to analysis by the Center for Global Development and the Economist, nations in the global south may not reach widespread vaccination until 2023.

The situation is dire, and we need more vaccines. At the moment, there is no worldwide joined-up effort to expand production. As incredible as it sounds, after all the public money that went into vaccine development, making and distributing them has been left entirely up to the market. Each company has its own—totally secret—recipes and supply chains, and they insist no other approach is possible.

But public policy experts like Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), have endlessly explained that alternative approaches are both available and possible, but that Big Pharma interests continue to block the political pathway to achieving them.

"With the pandemic costing millions of lives around the world and costing our economies trillions in lost output," Baker wrote earlier this month, "we really should be asking whether the current system serves us well in producing vaccines, tests, and treatments. Incredibly, public debate is so dominated by the pharmaceutical industry and its allies that we are primarily seeing celebration of the system's dubious claims to success, rather than discussions of the ways in which system was and is failing us in addressing the pandemic."

As political activist Lauren Steiner tweeted in response to Fang's reporting, pharmaceutical giants who are blocking patent waivers that could save millions of lives and help bring a much faster and comprehensive end to the Covid-19 pandemic "should change their name from the health care industry to the death industry."

Arkansas GOP condemned for veto override that continues 'discriminatory crusade against trans youth'

Defenders of LGBTQ rights denounced Republican legislators in Arkansas on Tuesday for overriding a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson just a day earlier that had been seen as a hard-won victory for the trans youth and other gender nonconforming people in the state.

The final passage of HB1570, which would block doctors from providing gender-affirming care or referring patients for such care, came in the wake of sustained opposition to what the state ACLU chapter described as "one of the most extreme and harmful anti-trans bills in the country."

Champions of trans youth who had 24 hours earlier celebrated Monday's veto by Hutchinson denounced Tuesday's 71-24 vote in the state House and the 25-8 vote in the Senate—large enough majorities to override the governor's signature.

"This bill will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state, and sends a terrible and heartbreaking message to transgender people who are watching in fear," the national ACLU tweeted immediately after the votes were announced.

While advocates expected the override, the vote was a major setback for those who had fought against it.

"Today Arkansas legislators disregarded widespread, overwhelming, and bipartisan opposition to this bill and continued their discriminatory crusade against trans youth," said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, in a statement after the vote.


Still, groups vowed to fight on.

"Trans youth in Arkansas: We will continue to fight for you," said the ACLU. "We will always have your back, and we'll be relentless in our defense of your rights."

The group added that it was already preparing litigation to combat the new law. "As we speak," they said.


"Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it's also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court," Dickinson said. "We are hearing from concerned families all over the state who are afraid about the impact of this bill and others like it. We are committed to doing all we can to support these families and ensure they know how to continue to fight for their rights and get the care and resources they need."

'Democrats will lose in 2022': Anger Grows as Biden bows to un-elected parliamentarian on $15 minimum wage

After the Democrats in the House approved a far-reaching Covid-19 relief package early Saturday with all but two members of the caucus on board, progressive anger and despair escalated over the Biden administration's refusal thus far to make sure the $15 minimum wage increase remains in the bill as it heads to the U.S. Senate.

As journalist David Sirota, founder of the The Daily Poster and former staffer for the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, put it on Saturday: "If you were writing a Dickensian novel, it would be about millions of desperately poor people being promised a $15 starvation wage, and then watching their millionaire senators tell them that a parliamentary adviser in the palace said no."

While Biden and his administration have made clear they will not move to use Harris' authority as presiding officer of the Senate to disregard or overrule the Parliamentarian's determination, the anger on the progressive left—both inside and outside of Congress—has only grown since Thursday.

Winnie Wong, political strategist and another Sanders campaign alumnus, said the choices for Biden and Harris are now quite stark and suggested the stakes are much higher than many top Democrats appear to understand or acknowledge:


On Sunday morning, the national advocacy and organizing group Women's March tweeted:


Addressing the issue Saturday morning on MSNBC, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Democrats have no choice but to "muscle it through" the Senate given the campaign promises made to voters leading up to last year's elections.

"We can't back to voters in two years," explained Jayapal, "and say, 'You know, we made you a promise—you delivered us the House, the White House, and the Senate—but a parliamentarian told us that we can't do it.'"


In a column on Saturday, The New Republic's Osita Nwanevu argued that there is simply nobody but Democrats themselves to blame for failure to include the $15 minimum wage increase in the Senate's Covid-19 relief package. "Not Republicans. Not the Senate parliamentarian. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and even Joe Biden are to blame for squandering their party's majority power," he wrote.

According to Nwanevu:

It has been written and said that the gambit failed because the Senate parliamentarian ruled that including the minimum wage increase would violate reconciliation rules. This is false: The Senate parliamentarian is a wholly powerless functionary who can be overruled at any time by the party holding the White House and Congress—both of which, as you might recall, are now controlled by the Democratic Party. The gambit failed because the White House and many Democrats in Congress opposed overruling the parliamentarian.

As Common Dreams reported Friday, a progressive coalition—including One Fair Wage, Women's March, People's Action, Center for Popular Democracy, and dozens of others—have sent a letter (pdf) to Biden and Harris and are cicrulating a petition demanding that the parliamentarian's guidance be disregarded so that the increase can be included in the Senate bill.

"As President of the Senate, Vice President Harris has the Constitutional power to disregard the recommendation of the Senate Parliamentarian and include this provision in the COVID relief legislation," the letter states.

Noting that the "vast bipartisan majority of Americans support" raising the wage, the groups tell Biden in their letter that he "simply must rise up for the communities who turned out in record numbers to elect him and support the Vice President in taking this action on behalf of his Administration."


While critics spent the weekend blasting the president and vice president for hiding behind the Senate rules, Nwanevu was among those who said an alternative path is clearly possible—if only Biden would fight.


"One thing Biden might have said to voters," wrote Nwanevu, "in any of the domestic policy speeches and public statements he's made over the past month, is that the minimum wage and other policies are more important than the Senate's rules and that the Senate's rules should be changed to pass them, potentially giving Manchin and Sinema, who do not really care about raising the minimum wage but do care about being reelected, an incentive to support raising the minimum wage and changing the Senate's rules."

Following the passage of the Covid-19 package in the House on Saturday, Ben Jealous, president of the People For the American Way, applauded the approval and said now it is time for the Senate to complete the job.

"It's clear why the Senate must pass this bill: families continue facing economic anxiety, unemployment claims are skyrocketing and people are behind on rent and facing household hunger," said Jealous. "Every element of this package is critically important and they must not be whittled down in the Senate. Therefore, we urge the administration and the Senate to do everything in their power to quickly pass the American Rescue Plan—including the $15 minimum wage increase—to ensure Americans get the help they need."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) suggested there is no excuse for every single Democrat in the Senate not to get on board with the $15 wage that Biden vowed to pass throughout the election season last year.

"This issue of will there be the votes in the Senate on final package is pretty simple," Khanna said Saturday. "If progressives can compromise and rally around the EXACT package President Biden proposed, is it not reasonable to expect every elected Democrat to do that?" Khanna also appeared on CNN to discuss his position:


Late Saturday, Jayapal repeated her message that Senate passage must follow if Democrats want to fulfill the pledges they made to the American people. "First, we promised workers that we'd give them a long overdue raise. Then, the House passed a $15 minimum wage," she tweeted. "Now, the Senate must do everything necessary to urgently deliver."

"It's been 12 years since we've raised the minimum wage and 30 since we've raised the federal tipped wage," added Jayapal. "We can't keep kicking the can down the road as millions are pushed into poverty. In a crisis like this, working people need all the help we can provide. Let's deliver."

Here are the 210 House Republicans — and 2 Democrats — who voted to deny struggling nation COVID relief

Though House Democrats in the end had the votes to assure final passage of a sweeping Covid-19 relief package overnight—securing approval with a final 219-212 tally—it was the Republican Party membership in total lockstep, joined by two lonely members of the majority party, that voted to deny struggling American families, frontline workers, state governments, local communities, small businesses, and the nation's schools and public health system nearly $2 trillion in urgent assistance to stabilize the economy, beat back the pandemic, and ensure solid footing for a robust recovery.

The two Democrats who sided with the GOP were Rep. Jared Golden, who represents Maine's 2nd District, and Rep. Kurt Shrader, who represents Oregon's 5th District. Direct from the roll call:

golden_schrader.png

In a statement, Golden called the third round of direct stimulus payments to households in his state and nationwide "a waste" of resources and justified his "no" vote as being fiscally responsible as he fearmongered over the deficit by saying at "some point" the bill for the relief spending authorized by Congress over the last year to stem the damage caused by one of the worst pandemics to hit the nation (and the world) in over a hundred years "has to come due." The "no" vote did not go over well with many Maine voters:


For his part, and as of this writing, Schrader neither posted the justification for his vote on social media nor issued a statement via his congressional website. But while the two Democrats were the clear outliers in their party, the GOP proved that they are united in opposition to an increase in the federal minimum wage for American workers and the slate of far-reaching public health and economic rescue efforts included in the bill.


Here are the 210 Republicans—every single member of the GOP caucus—who voted against:

AderholtState: AlabamaNay
AllenState:GeorgiaNay
AmodeiState:NevadaNay
ArmstrongState:North DakotaNay
ArringtonState:TexasNay
BabinState:TexasNay
BaconState:NebraskaNay
BairdState:IndianaNay
BaldersonState:OhioNay
BanksState:IndianaNay
BarrState:KentuckyNay
BentzState:OregonNay
BergmanState:MichiganNay
Bice (OK)State:OklahomaNay
BiggsState:ArizonaNay
BilirakisState:FloridaNay
Bishop (NC)State:N. CarolinaNay
BoebertState:ColoradoNay
BostState:IllinoisNot Voting
BradyState:TexasNay
BrooksState:AlabamaNay
BuchananState:FloridaNay
BuckState:ColoradoNay
BucshonState:IndianaNay
BuddState:N. CarolinaNay
BurchettState:TennesseeNay
BurgessState:TexasNay
CalvertState:CaliforniaNay
CammackState:FloridaNay
CarlState:AlabamaNay
Carter (GA)State:GeorgiaNay
Carter (TX)State:TexasNay
CawthornState:N. CarolinaNay
ChabotState:OhioNay
CheneyState:WyomingNay
ClineState:VirginiaNay
CloudState:TexasNay
ClydeState:GeorgiaNay
ColeState:OklahomaNay
ComerState:KentuckyNay
CrawfordState:ArkansasNay
CrenshawState:TexasNay
CurtisState:UtahNay
DavidsonState:OhioNay
Davis, RodneyState:IllinoisNay
DesJarlaisState:TennesseeNay
Diaz-BalartState:FloridaNay
DonaldsState:FloridaNay
DuncanState:S. CarolinaNay
DunnState:FloridaNay
EmmerState:MinnesotaNay
EstesState:KansasNay
FallonState:TexasNay
FeenstraState:IowaNay
FergusonState:GeorgiaNay
FischbachState:MinnesotaNay
FitzgeraldState:WisconsinNay
FitzpatrickState:PennsylvaniaNay
FleischmannState:TennesseeNay
FortenberryState:NebraskaNay
FoxxState:N. CarolinaNay
Franklin, C. ScottState:FloridaNay
FulcherState:IdahoNay
GaetzState:FloridaNay
GallagherState:WisconsinNay
GarbarinoState:New YorkNay
Garcia (CA)State:CaliforniaNay
GibbsState:OhioNay
GimenezState:FloridaNay
GohmertState:TexasNay
Gonzales, TonyState:TexasNay
Gonzalez (OH)State:OhioNay
Good (VA)State:VirginiaNay
Gooden (TX)State:TexasNay
GosarState:ArizonaNay
GrangerState:TexasNay
Graves (LA)State:LouisianaNay
Graves (MO)State:MissouriNay
Green (TN)State:TennesseeNay
Greene (GA)State:GeorgiaNay
GriffithState:VirginiaNay
GrothmanState:WisconsinNay
GuestState:MississippiNay
GuthrieState:KentuckyNay
HagedornState:MinnesotaNay
HarrisState:MarylandNay
HarshbargerState:TennesseeNay
HartzlerState:MissouriNay
HernState:OklahomaNay
HerrellState:New MexicoNay
Herrera BeutlerState:WashingtonNay
Hice (GA)State:GeorgiaNay
Higgins (LA)State:LouisianaNay
HillState:ArkansasNay
HinsonState:IowaNay
HollingsworthState:IndianaNay
HudsonState:N. CarolinaNay
HuizengaState:MichiganNay
IssaState:CaliforniaNay
JacksonState:TexasNay
Jacobs (NY)State:New YorkNay
Johnson (LA)State:LouisianaNay
Johnson (OH)State:OhioNay
Johnson (SD)State:South DakotaNay
JordanState:OhioNay
Joyce (OH)State:OhioNay
Joyce (PA)State:PennsylvaniaNay
KatkoState:New YorkNay
KellerState:PennsylvaniaNay
Kelly (MS)State:MississippiNay
Kelly (PA)State:PennsylvaniaNay
Kim (CA)State:CaliforniaNay
KinzingerState:IllinoisNay
KustoffState:TennesseeNay
LaHoodState:IllinoisNay
LaMalfaState:CaliforniaNay
LambornState:ColoradoNay
LattaState:OhioNay
LaTurnerState:KansasNay
LeskoState:ArizonaNay
LongState:MissouriNay
LoudermilkState:GeorgiaNay
LucasState:OklahomaNay
LuetkemeyerState:MissouriNay
MaceState:S. CarolinaNay
MalliotakisState:New YorkNay
MannState:KansasNay
MassieState:KentuckyNay
MastState:FloridaNay
McCarthyState:CaliforniaNay
McCaulState:TexasNay
McClainState:MichiganNay
McClintockState:CaliforniaNay
McHenryState:N. CarolinaNay
McKinleyState:West VirginiaNay
MeijerState:MichiganNay
MeuserState:PennsylvaniaNay
Miller (IL)State:IllinoisNay
Miller (WV)State:West VirginiaNay
Miller-MeeksState:IowaNay
MoolenaarState:MichiganNay
MooneyState:West VirginiaNay
Moore (AL)State:AlabamaNay
Moore (UT)State:UtahNay
MullinState:OklahomaNay
Murphy (NC)State:North CarolinaNay
NehlsState:TexasNay
NewhouseState:WashingtonNay
NormanState:S. CarolinaNay
NunesState:CaliforniaNay
ObernolteState:CaliforniaNay
OwensState:UtahNay
PalazzoState:MississippiNay
PalmerState:AlabamaNay
PenceState:IndianaNay
PerryState:PennsylvaniaNay
PflugerState:TexasNay
PoseyState:FloridaNay
ReedState:New YorkNay
ReschenthalerState:PennsylvaniaNay
Rice (SC)State:S. CarolinaNay
Rodgers (WA)State:WashingtonNay
Rogers (AL)State:AlabamaNay
Rogers (KY)State:KentuckyNay
RoseState:TennesseeNay
RosendaleState:MontanaNay
RouzerState:N. CarolinaNay
RoyState:TexasNay
RutherfordState:FloridaNay
SalazarState:FloridaNay
ScaliseState:LouisianaNay
SchweikertState:ArizonaNay
Scott, AustinState:GeorgiaNay
SessionsState:TexasNay
SimpsonState:IdahoNay
Smith (MO)State:MissouriNay
Smith (NE)State:NebraskaNay
Smith (NJ)State:New JerseyNay
SmuckerState:PennsylvaniaNay
SpartzState:IndianaNay
StauberState:MinnesotaNay
SteelState:CaliforniaNay
StefanikState:New YorkNay
SteilState:WisconsinNay
SteubeState:FloridaNay
StewartState:UtahNay
StiversState:OhioNay
TaylorState:TexasNay
TenneyState:New YorkNay
Thompson (PA)State:PennsylvaniaNay
TiffanyState:WisconsinNay
TimmonsState:S. CarolinaNay
TurnerState:OhioNay
UptonState:MichiganNay
ValadaoState:CaliforniaNay
Van DrewState:New JerseyNay
Van DuyneState:TexasNay
WagnerState:MissouriNay
WalbergState:MichiganNay
WalorskiState:IndianaNay
WaltzState:FloridaNay
Weber (TX)State:TexasNay
Webster (FL)State:FloridaNay
WenstrupState:OhioNay
WestermanState:ArkansasNay
Williams (TX)State:TexasNay
Wilson (SC)State:S. CarolinaNay
WittmanState:VirginiaNay
WomackState:ArkansasNay
YoungState:AlaskaNay
ZeldinState:New YorkNay

"Early this morning," tweeted former labor secretary Robert Reich on Saturady, "just 15 days before jobless aid runs out for tens of millions during the worst pandemic in a century, the House voted 219-212 to pass Biden's American Rescue Plan. Every single House Republican voted against it. All you need to know."

'We must get to the truth': Pelosi announces far-reaching probe into Trump's insurrection

Following demands for such a probe both before and subsequent to the Senate's decision over the weekend to acquit former President Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 violence on Capitol Hill, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced Monday afternoon that she has authorized a 9/11-style commission to further probe the events of that day as well the various dynamics and actions that led up to it.

In a letter to congressional colleagues Monday, Pelosi said that an initial probe and report presented by (ret.) Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré focused on the security failings of January 6, as well as the case presented during the impeachment hearings in the House and the trial in the Senate make clear that a more comprehensive investigation is warranted.

"It is clear from [Honoré's] findings and from the impeachment trial that we must get to the truth of how this happened," Pelosi stated.

According to Pelosi's letter:

To protect our security, our next step will be to establish an outside, independent 9/11-type Commission to "investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex… and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement in the National Capitol Region."
As we prepare for the Commission, it is also clear from General Honoré's interim reporting that we must put forth a supplemental appropriation to provide for the safety of Members and the security of the Capitol.

CNN reports that a "commission of this nature would be established by a statute, passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President. The commission members would not be elected leaders and would be outside the government."

'Even David Brooks agrees' Democrats should 'absolutely kill the filibuster'

Even New York Times columnist David Brooks—widely reviled over many years for his "wrongheaded and naive" brand of right-wing commentary—agreed Friday with the many progressive voices arguing that Democrats will ultimately be justified in abolishing the legislative filibuster in the U.S. Senate if Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continues his obstructionist ways.

In his latest column—titled the "The Case for Biden Optimism"—Brooks contends that if current efforts to forge a bipartisan power-sharing agreement fail, efforts to pass a comprehensive Covid-19 economic relief package put forth by President Joe Biden are stymied, and "Republicans go into full obstruction mode" then the Democrats, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, "should absolutely kill the filibuster."

While progressives have been making this argument intensely for weeks, if not months, many were caught off guard by Brooks' endorsement.

"Can't believe David Brooks and I finally agree on a thing," said Winnie Wong, former top aide to the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign, in response to the column.

"Kill the filibuster. Today. Now," said former secretary of labor Robert Reich in a tweet directed at Schumer. "Hell, even David Brooks agrees."

As columnist Ryan Cooper wrote for The Week on Thursday: "[McConnell] is demanding Democrats preserve his ability to block anything they propose with the Senate filibuster, so he can ruin the country and blame it on them, and he is gambling that moderate Democratic senators will be too scared to call his bluff. Democrats should tell McConnell to go pound sand, and nuke the filibuster right now."

Cooper explained:

Recall that the filibuster allows just 41 senators to block most legislation. Activists have begged Democrats to get rid of the filibuster after witnessing McConnell use it to shamelessly obstruct Democratic priorities and then immediately remove it as an obstacle to his own chief priority, confirming right-wing Supreme Court Justices. Yet so far a crucial segment of moderate Democratic senators have resisted, for reasons of "tradition," or worries it will force them to take difficult votes, or simple timidity. Now McConnell has broken yet another Senate norm by threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution unless Democrats agree to keep the legislative filibuster for the next two years. To the best of my knowledge, filibustering the initial organizational rule package in a new Congress has never happened before. (Incidentally, since the Senate will continue to operate under its current rules, that leaves Republicans in charge of the committees so long as it is not passed.)
If Democrats agree, given McConnell's history, he is virtually guaranteed to not allow any normal legislation through, and to drag out the confirmation of any appointee as long as possible. The only way to pass any law will be through the cumbersome and limited reconciliation process. Just as he did under President [Barack] Obama, McConnell wants to throw sand in the gears of government, prevent Biden from accomplishing anything, blame Democrats for the resulting dysfunction, and take back full control of the Senate in two years.

In response to McConnell's request to keep the filibuster in place, Schumer on the Senate floor Friday morning said the proposal "is unacceptable, and it won't be accepted. And the Republican leader knew that when he first proposed it."

In a statement on Thursday, Mairead Lynn, a spokesperson for the watchdog group Accountable.US, also suggested that Schumer should not tolerate McConnell's obstruction for one minute longer and called out the Republican leader's objections to the organizing agreement in the Senate thus far as clearly made in bad faith.

"If McConnell wanted to work with Democrats in good faith," said Lynn, "he would have spent the last two months moving President Biden's Cabinet nominees through the confirmation process—a precedent afforded to every previous president."

McConnell's "unprecedented" and "outsized" demands that would neutralize Democratic control over the Senate, added Lynn, "are nothing more than a last-ditch effort to further obstruct the Biden administration from implementing the will of the people. Enough is enough: McConnell needs to drop his unreasonable demands and let the Senate get to work."

On Thursday, Ezra Klein, Brooks' liberal colleague at the Times, argued that none of the far-reaching bills that Democrats have vowed to pass will be possible in "a Senate in which the filibuster forces 60-vote supermajorities on routine legislation."

Democrats, wrote Klein, "have plenty of ideas that could improve people's lives and strengthen democracy. But they have, repeatedly, proved themselves more committed to preserving the status quo of the political system than fulfilling their promises to voters. They have preferred the false peace of decorum to the true progress of democracy. If they choose that path again, they will lose their majority in 2022, and they will deserve it."

According to Klein, Biden's "agenda will live or die in the Senate"—and if proper action is not taken, he continued, "odds are it will die, killed by the filibuster."

This is exactly why progressive critics have urged Democrats to immediately end the charade orchestrated by McConnell.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive advocacy group Indivisible, said his read on the situation was this: "McConnell wants to block popular bills this Congress—stuff like D.C. statehood and H.R. 1. He doesn't want to have the filibuster fight with that backdrop, so instead he's picking the fight on a boring-sounding procedure thing hoping it's more favorable ground for him."

"To be clear," he added: "Senate Dems have no reason or need to give into McConnell's BS. It would be a colossal mistake of historic proportions for them to give in. And I don't think they will here."

And as Levin put it on Friday in a tweet linking to Brooks' column: "Killing the Jim Crow filibuster is the institutionalist, pro-democracy position."

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