Health

Dianne Feinstein relying on aides to 'remind her how and when she should vote': report

United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) returned to work earlier this month to a growing chorus of calls for her to resign due to her lengthy absence battling shingles and her apparent cognitive decline.

Feinstein — chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law — has held elected office for more than half a century and has had a decorated career as a champion for civil rights. But according to reporting in Sunday's New York Times, Feinstein is now dependent upon aides to micromanage her every move.

The latest drama unfolded during a procedural vote on one of President Joe Biden's judgeship appointments.

READ MORE: Concerned colleagues say Dianne Feinstein 'shockingly diminished' upon return to Senate: report

"Two staff members settled the 89-year-old California Democrat into a chair at the dais as the assembled senators greeted their ailing colleague with a round of applause. When Ms. Feinstein spoke — during a vote on one of several of President Biden's judicial nominees whose approval had awaited her return — she appeared to read from a piece of paper handed to her by a female aide seated behind her," the Times reveals.

After Feinstein cast her affirmative ballot, the Timesrecalls, "the aide knelt next to her and whispered into her ear in between votes — popping up repeatedly from her seat to confer with the senator, at one point clearing away the paper Ms. Feinstein had read from and presenting her with a folder that appeared to contain background information about the nominees."

The paper points out that "the scene was typical of Ms. Feinstein's day-to-day existence on Capitol Hill, where she is surrounded by a retinue of staff members who serve not only the roles of typical congressional aides — advising on policy, keeping tabs on the schedule, drafting statements and speeches — but also as de facto companions to a senator whose age, frail health and memory issues make it difficult for her to function alone."

The Times also notes that Feinstein's staffers "remind her how and when she should vote and step in to explain what is happening when she grows confused."

READ MORE: 'Things could get weird': California GOP could be a key factor in Dianne Feinstein's fate, report warns

The New York Times' report continues here (subscription required).

Abortion providers sue South Carolina over 'cruel' 6-week ban

"If S. 474 is not blocked, South Carolinians will be robbed of the freedom to control their own lives, bodies, and futures," said Alexis McGill Johnson of Planned Parenthood.To stop Republican lawmakers in South Carolina from dealing a "catastrophic blow to abortion access across the South," reproductive healthcare providers on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the state to block the six-week abortion ban that went into effect immediately after Gov. Henry McMaster signed it.

The ban (S. 474) was passed Tuesday after five women in the state Senate—the only women in the body, including three Republicans, one Democrat, and one Independent—attempted to filibuster the legislation. They were unable to persuade two other Republicans to vote against the bill, which bans abortion before many people know they are pregnant.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic (PPSA) joined two healthcare providers and one clinic in the lawsuit; the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) are representing the plaintiffs.

The groups noted that S. 474 is "nearly identical" to another six-week ban that was struck down by the South Carolina Supreme Court earlier this year. The new ban contains limited exceptions for the life and health of the pregnant person and certain fetal abnormalities, and a provision under which survivors of rape and incest can ostensibly access care until 12 weeks of pregnancy, but only if their provider reports the assault and the patient's name to law enforcement.

The state Supreme Court ruled in January that an earlier six-week ban violated the right to privacy guaranteed by South Carolina's constitution.

"The South Carolina Supreme Court was clear—banning abortion after approximately six weeks was unconstitutional six months ago, and it’s still unconstitutional now," said Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of CRR. "South Carolinians' rights are once again being violated, but we will continue to fight back."

South Carolina's neighboring states, Georgia and North Carolina, have passed bans on abortion care at six weeks and 12 weeks, respectively, with North Carolina's law set to take effect on July 1.

Other states across the South have enacted total bans on abortion, including some that contain no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban earlier this year, but the law is under review by the state Supreme Court.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of PPFA, said that unless the South Carolina Supreme Court acts again, "people across the region who rely on this state for care will suffer."

"Today, we are asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to do its job and protect people's ability to seek basic healthcare, without political interference, by quickly blocking this cruel law," said Johnson. "If S. 474 is not blocked, South Carolinians will be robbed of the freedom to control their own lives, bodies, and futures."

The groups and providers are seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the law from taking effect as well as a judgment declaring the law unconstitutional.

"State lawmakers have once again trampled on our right to make private healthcare decisions, ignoring warnings from healthcare providers and precedent set by the state's highest court just a few months ago," said Jenny Black, president and CEO of PPSA. "We will always fight for our patients' ability to make their own decisions about their bodies and access the healthcare they need. We urge the court to take swift action to block this dangerous ban on abortion."

Democrat 'apologizes' to 'Grand Appliance Party' for protecting kids from gun violence instead of gas stoves

U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Florida, one of the more prolific Democrats in the House of Representatives, mocked the GOP and his Republican colleagues during the Oversight Committee’s hearing on gas stoves.

“I want to apologize on behalf of the Democratic Party that we have decided to put kids’ safety, in their neighborhoods from getting gunned down, in movie theaters, or grocery stores, or school churches, or synagogues – we as Democrats have clearly lost our way that we are not focused on appliances,” Congressman Moskowitz said sarcastically in the viral video below.

Officially called, “Consumer Choice on the Backburner: Examining the Biden Administration’s Regulatory Assault on Americans’ Gas Stoves,” Wednesday’s hearing was a magnet for mockery, as some Republicans outright lied about Biden administration’s claims and plans.

Congressman Byron Donalds (R-FL) falsely claimed that the Biden Administration was forcing, or trying to force, Americans to replace their gas stoves with electric ones that don’t cause the type of dangerous air pollution gas stoves in the home do when there is poor air circulation.

READ MORE: ‘Leaning Into Weird’: DeSantis Presidential Launch Panned Before It Starts Because Who Even Knows What Twitter Spaces Is?

“I’m not even joking around, because this thing is stupid,” Rep. Donalds told the committee. “For black and brown communities, the cost of actually having to go out and buy a new appliance, or to retrofit your kitchen is far more dangerous to your bottom line and to your pocketbook. I’m being honest, far more dangerous.”

“What we can’t do are these crazy demands from the Department of Energy and from the EPA,” he said at the end of his diatribe.

None of which is true. DOE and EPA are not mandating gas stoves be banned. What they want is all new construction – new buildings – to not have gas stoves. There’s no requirement to replace your current gas stove, although studies show they can be more dangerous than electric stoves.

In January, Yahoo News reported, “Gas stoves have given 650,000 U.S. children asthma, study finds,” but the GOP quickly dismissed those findings.

In fact, however, studies going back decades have shown gas stoves can be harmful to your health, and your children’s health, especially when there’s inadequate ventilation.

“There is about 50 years of health studies showing that gas stoves are bad for our health, and the strongest evidence is on children and children’s asthma,” the co-author of a study, cited by Bloomberg, said.

Rep. Donalds was responding to Oversight Ranking Democratic member Cori Bush, who told the committee she was there to “discuss climate, the environment, and the very air we breathe – not just gas stoves. I w9sh my Republican colleagues were as concerned about the Black and Brown communities on the front lies of our climate crisis as they are about an appliance.”

“This proposed rule is not a ban on gas stoves,” Bush declared, repeating her remarks. “We are regulating indoor air pollution.”

U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) also blasted Republicans: “You know what they are banning? Abortions. You know what they are banning? Books. You know what they won’t ban? Assault weapons, but we are sitting up here talking about a ban on gas stoves.”

Congressman Moskowitz’s remarks, however, went viral.

“You know, and it’s warm, and you’re in the kitchen, and you stare into the knobs of your beautiful stainless steel beauty. I got it, I get the bravado – we can pry your gas stove from your cold dead hands, or, give me my gas stove or give me death,” Rep. Moskowitz said as he mocked House Republicans.

RELATED: ‘Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands’: GOP Vows ‘Stove War’ Legislation, Doesn’t Want Feds ‘Coming After Kitchen Appliances’

“You know I have a six-burner double oven range that sits on legs. I mean, I miss her, right now, as as we’re talking about it. And, and so I think because it’s a two party system, I think when my colleagues across the aisle, the the other party, show leadership, the leadership of our times that is desperately needed, Democrats like myself, should commend them.”

“And I want to apologize on behalf of the Democratic Party that we have decided to put kids’ safety in their neighborhoods, from getting gunned down in movie theaters or grocery stores or school churches or synagogues, we as Democrats have clearly lost our way that we are not focused on appliances. And so we’re finally seeing our friends across the aisle stand up for parents all across the country as they tuck their kid in at night. As they dress them for school in the morning, as they are worried that they may not come home. My friends across the aisle are telling those parents, you can breathe a sigh of relief that the Grand Appliance Party is going to make sure your gas stove goes nowhere.”

“You, you might own a small business,” he continued, “and you are worried about how you’re going to pay your employees if we default. The good news for you today is that if you have to shutter your business because the country defaults, your gas stove will still be there. And so, you know, I look forward to the legislation of our time the Appliance Bill of Rights that might come in front of this committee.”

The video has been seen over 850,000 times in under six hours.

Watch below or at this link.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez torches Big Pharma’s 'out-of-control' and 'predatory' profiteering

United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) decried the massive profits of the pharmaceutical industry during a House hearing on Tuesday, arguing that the public should be given the option to buy into government programs like Medicare.

"I believe that the profit-seeking motive in the pharmaceutical industry is out of control, and I think that it is what is hurting people," Ocasio-Cortez said.

The figures are indeed staggering. Fierce Pharma reported in April that the top twenty drug manufacturers raked in hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue in 2022, in large part because of research, development, and sales stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Scientists to G7 leaders: Prepare for next pandemic by combating Big Pharma greed

"For the first time in biopharma history, a company has topped the $100 billion mark in annual revenue. Pfizer passed that milestone, propelled by its massive haul from its COVID-19 products. Its BioNTech-partnered vaccine, Comirnaty, raked in $37.8 billion, and oral antiviral Paxlovid made $18.9 billion," Fierce Pharma explained. "With its windfall, Pfizer displaced Johnson & Johnson as the industry's No. 1 revenue generator. J&J had occupied that position for a decade and had been closing in on the $100 billion mark. Sales for 2021 and 2022 came in at $93.8 billion and $94.9 billion, respectively. But with J&J on the verge of separating from its consumer health business, its overall revenue will take a tumble. The unit, dubbed Kenvue, accounted for $15 billion of J&J's sales last year."

Ocasio-Cortez asserted that those earnings warrant a shift in the American approach to healthcare.

"I personally believe that if you have a public entity that does not have a profit motive, like Medicare, negotiate these prices with the manufacturers, including the transparency that we see along with other entities like Tricare, Medicaid, et cetera, then we can get an actual fair price for these medications that includes their manufacturing and R&D costs, but will not finance stock buybacks and other types of predatory behavior. And then I believe that Medicare should expand its eligibility so that people can buy into at-cost public insurance," the congresswoman stated before challenging opponents of her idea to justify their positions.

"Now, I understand that not everyone in this room agrees with that assessment," Ocasio-Cortez said. "I am very curious to hear about any other proposals because I think at the core what we're talking about is an extreme out-of-control profit motive that is, that has virtually no guardrails and that Congress doesn't impose guardrails on for a whole bunch of other dark money reasons."

Watch Ocasio-Cortez below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'Sick and tired of being ripped off': Bernie Sanders excoriates big pharma greed

Fierce Pharma's report continues here.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. inoculates himself against financial disclosure

The Federal Election Commission granted Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. more time to reveal his personal finances, buying the member of the wealthy Kennedy family an extra 45 days to disclose his assets, income and liabilities as required for all presidential hopefuls.

Kennedy joins several other members of a growing field of presidential candidates who requested and received extensions until June 29 or beyond to file public financial disclosures, including former President Donald J. Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — all Republicans — and author Marianne Williamson, a Democrat, according to a Raw Story analysis of FEC records.

“The reason for the request is that the press of business in the past 30 days, since his announcement has been so extraordinary, the demands on Mr. Kennedy's time have been great, and his presence at various venues across the country, requires extra time to produce the report,” said a May 22 letter from Kennedy’s new campaign manager, former Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, to Lisa J. Stevenson, acting general counsel at the FEC.

Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of late President John F. Kennedy, must file his disclosure by the July 6, the new deadline the FEC granted.

The environmental lawyer, who has become known as a prominent vaccine skeptic, announced his candidacy in early April. Kennedy's disclosure could potentially confirm the millions the New York Post reported he made from his anti-vax work with charities and his book, “The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health."

Along with Williamson, Kennedy faces extremely long odds in a Democratic primary against President Joe Biden, who announced his reelection campaign last month.

"If it looks like I can raise the money and mobilize enough people to win, I’ll jump in the race," Kennedy wrote on Twitter on March 10 as he was considering a presidential run. "If I run, my top priority will be to end the corrupt merger between state and corporate power that has ruined our economy, shattered the middle class, polluted our landscapes and waters, poisoned our children, and robbed us of our values and freedoms. Together we can restore America's democracy."

Biden submitted his disclosure report on time, as did Republican candidate Nikki Haley, whose disclosure revealed the millions of dollars she earns from speaking engagements, consulting fees and revenue from her own company.

Timely financial disclosures have been a particular problem with members of Congress, dozen of whom have been weeks, months or even years late in disclosing federally mandated financial trades — including severalmembersthis month.

Exploring the US and India’s grim and violent rightward turns

Priti and Stan Cox, Two Great Powers, Too Much Violence

Let me offer a small prediction: between this moment when I’m writing the introduction to Priti Gulati and Stan Cox’s new piece and the moment, a few days from now, when it’s actually posted at TomDispatch, the question isn’t whether there will be another mass shooting in America, but how many of them there will be. In a country where an estimated one of every 20 people, or some 13 million of us, owns not just a gun but an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, it goes without saying that carnage lies ahead. After all, 2023 is already proving a record year for both mass shootings (in which at least four people other than the gunman — and yes, they are almost always men or boys — are killed or wounded) and mass killings (in which four or more people other than the gunman are slaughtered).

By early May, there had already been more than 200 mass shootings in this country and we’re on target (so to speak) for at least 60 mass killings by year’s end. (There were “only” 36 in 2022.) It’s long been the case that ours is the sole country on planet Earth where there are more privately owned guns than people. With just 4% of the world’s population, we possess something like 40% of the globe’s guns. Imagine that!

In a country where gun “control” remains essentially a fantasy, given the Trumpublican Party (and the present Supreme Court), the AR-15 has become the slaughter weapon of choice, whether of the young man who entered a Buffalo supermarket and killed 10 Black customers or of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who killed two Black Lives Matter protestors at a Wisconsin rally and was later invited to Mar-a-Lago by Donald Trump. And keep in mind that, while a few states have tried to impose restrictions or bans on assault rifles and President Biden has indeed supported a national ban, some Republican members of Congress now proudly sport AR-15 pins on their lapels as a sign of their commitment to the “right to bear arms” in America.

With that in mind, let TomDispatch regulars Priti Gulati and Stan Cox tell you something about where our all-too-well-armed country and Priti’s homeland, India, could both be heading, politically speaking, in this all-too-murderous moment of ours. Tom

Between a Yoga Mat and a Hard Place

The Violent Urge for Supremacy in the World’s Two Largest Democracies

Are you worried about the rising political power of violent white nationalists in America? Well, you’ve got plenty of company, including U.S. national security and counterterrorism officials. And we’re worried, too — worried enough, in fact, to feel that it’s time to take a look at the experience of India, where Hindu supremacist dogma has increasingly been enforced through violent means. While there are striking parallels between both countries, India appears to have ventured further down the road of far-right violence. Its experience could potentially offer Americans some valuable, if grim, lessons.

As a start, let’s look at two recent incidents, one in India and the other in the United States.

Laws passed in most Indian states against the killing of cattle have served as a common pretext for the violent enforcement of Hindu beliefs. Recently, for example, three men were arrested on charges of abducting and murdering Junaid and Nasir, two Muslim men transporting cattle through the northern state of Haryana. They first beat Junaid to death, then strangled Nasir. Both bodies were incinerated in a car left at the side of the road. That attack was linked to paramilitary gangs known as gao rakshaks (cow protectors) who, in these last years, have been on a rampage of violence in northern India, though similar horrors have recently been recorded further south in Maharashtra, home to India’s largest city, Mumbai.

In the United States, too, violent hatred is both on the rise and being all too perversely celebrated on the right. Within three days of being charged with involuntary manslaughter, Daniel Penny, the U.S. Marine veteran who made national news by choking to death Jordan Neely, a homeless, mentally ill Black man on a New York City subway car, raised a whopping $2.7 million from the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo. Charged with manslaughter, he’s already been dubbed a “subway Superman” by Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, while his fellow Floridian, Governor Ron DeSantis, tweeted that to “stop the Left’s pro-criminal agenda” we all must “stand with Good Samaritans like Daniel Penny.”

Sadly enough, those episodes, occurring half a globe apart, are just two data points in surges of violent extremism sweeping both India and the United States. That trend first took off in India in 2014 with the election victory of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), making him prime minister. In the United States, it hit big time with the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president. But such mayhem — and the broad approval of political violence by Hindu supremacists there and white supremacists here — has only grown in the years since.

Those incidents also illustrate one crucial difference between far-right violence in India and the United States. Whereas the surge of Hindu-supremacist violence has become a nationally organized collective effort, most American white-supremacist violence is still being committed by individuals acting alone.

In the U.S., we’ve experienced a growing outbreak of hate shootings in which the victims simply find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time (and all too often of the wrong color), even as a longer-term trend of mass killings committed by racially motivated and ever better armed “lone wolves” rises. Notably, among those solo actors, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020, and a host of others have reaped lavish praise from leading Trumpublican politicians, including that MAGA kingpin The Donald himself. (He, in fact, invited Rittenhouse to Mar-a-Lago in 2021.) And 2023 is already on track to set a record for mass shootings, while hate crimes in general rose to more than 200 per week in 2021, the last year for which the FBI has complete data. The vast majority of those crimes were committed by unaffiliated individuals.

In India, by contrast, hate violence is often highly organized. The cattle vigilantes recently arrested in Haryana, for example, were affiliated with Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of Vishnu Hindu Parishad (the World Hindu Council), which, in turn, is an offshoot of a vast Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The RSS movement was launched in 1925 with one mission: to make India (then still a British colony) a Hindu Rashtra — that is, a “Hindu Nation.” Its approach was inspired by the fascist movements of a century ago in Italy and Germany. Today, it has a membership of five to six million and holds daily meetings in more than 36,000 different locations across India. Worse yet, the ruling BJP party, with Modi at its head, is an offshoot of RSS.

In 2002, Modi was the chief minister of the state of Gujarat when horrific communal violence took almost 2,000 lives, mostly Muslim, in a political and social earthquake that helped kick off the current wave of Hindu nationalism. In 2014, on the strength of the Hindu nationalist bona fides he’d earned 12 years earlier, he became prime minister and soon all hell broke loose.

Cows and Bulls**t

In a majority of India’s states today, cow slaughter is designated a crime and put in the same category with rape, murder, or sedition. As Harsh Mander, who has organized against communal and religiously-inspired violence, explains in his bookPartitions of the Heart, “The campaign today that claims to defend [the cow] has nothing to do with love of any kind.” It is instead “another highly emotive symbol to beat down India’s minorities into submission and fear.”

Laws against cattle slaughter and beef consumption lay largely dormant until 2014. Now, they are being enforced ever more violently by Hindu supremacist vigilantes. Those laws, in fact, have provided a much-needed pretext for extreme violence. As Tej Parikh noted recently in the Asia-Pacific magazine The Diplomat, “Two Muslim women were raped in Mewat [in Haryana state] in early September [2022], after their attackers had accused them of eating beef.” And to put those acts in the context of this moment, he added that “the maximum sentence for a convicted rapist in Haryana is three years less than for a cow slaughtering offense.”

As Mander has pointed out, such beef bans are a tool for subjugating Muslims, Dalits (formerly referred to pejoratively as “untouchables”), Christians, and Adivasis (Indigenous peoples) to Hindu rule. Strange as it may sound, an American analogy could be the criminalization of abortion. In one country, cattle, in the other, human fetuses are being used as right-wing implements to oppress, socially control, and reassert supremacy over significant sections of our respective populations.

As in the U.S., violence against women is rampant in India and perpetrators are often treated with remarkable leniency. Consider Sandip, Ramu, Lavkush, and Ravi, four upper-caste Hindus who, in 2020, tortured, gang-raped, and killed a 19-year-old Dalit girl in the middle of a pearl millet field in the state of Uttar Pradesh. This March, a court found Sandip alone guilty — and only of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder.” The other three men were acquitted.

In the Hindu supremacist context, the phrase ghar wapsi (which literally means “homecoming”) refers to forcibly converting people from Islam or Christianity to Hinduism. In a recent typical case, a BJP politician, the state secretary of Chhattisgarh in northeastern India, home to many low-caste Hindus and tribal peoples, coerced more than 1,100 Christians into undergoing a ghar wapsiceremony.

Hindu supremacists regularly use confinement and violence to secure such conversions. For instance, two women have filed a complaint against priests at a yoga center in the state of Kerala where they were held captive in an effort to do so. “I was forced to do work as housemaid including cleaning and preparing dishes for 65 inmates,” one of them swore in her affidavit. A priest, she wrote, “threatened that they would kill Isaac [her Muslim husband] if I went back to him.” The other woman told the court, “People at the [yoga] center asked me to leave [her Muslim husband] Hameed. When I resisted, they slapped my face, kicked my lower abdomen and stuffed cloth in my mouth to prevent me from screaming.”

Hindu nationalists are also raising alarms over “love jihad,” a false conspiracy theory that claims Muslim men are out to charm Hindu women into wedlock, conversion, and the production of Muslim babies. A recently released propaganda film, The Kerala Story, purports to show how 32,000 women from that state were converted to Islam and recruited by Islamic State terrorists. No matter that none of that ever happened, “love jihad” rhetoric, including the portrayal of Muslim men as “deceitful, sexual monsters,” is being embraced even by white supremacists in the United States, according to Zeinab Farokhi, a professor at Toronto University.

East Meets West, West Meets Caste

Washington and New Delhi recently announced that Prime Minister Modi will be making a state visit to the U.S. in June. During that visit, notes the Indian outlet The Wire, “Modi is likely to visit New York for Yoga Day on June 21.”

Indeed, he will, for that annual yoga event was Modi’s brainchild. In 2014, he proposed that an International Day of Yoga be celebrated at the summer solstice and the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution to that effect. An avid yoga practitioner, Modi then wrote, “Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action… a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and well-being.” These days, maybe Modi should take a little more time for yoga, which might allow him to gain a more holistic understanding of the hate and cruelty now rippling through Indian society. (Substitute Donald Trump for Modi doing yoga, if you want a little grim humor right now.)

Today, there are an estimated 4.3 million South Asian-Americans living in the U.S., including people from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. A report released by a caste-abolitionist group, Equality Labs, entitled “Caste in the United States,” found that even in America, “many South Asians who identify as being from the ‘lower’ castes… tend to hide their caste,” because they fear that “they and their families could be rejected from South Asian cultural and religious spaces, lose professional and social networks, or even face bullying, abuse, and violence.”

Recently, however, a few rays of light have pierced the political gloom. In February, Seattle became the first city in the U.S. to prohibit caste discrimination and (joke, joke) yoga had nothing to do with it. The ban passed because of the hard work and solidarity of local activists, along with socialist Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant who proposed it. Then, on May 11th, casteism was banished from an entire state, the nation’s largest, when the California senate passed a bill to that effect.

To add another positive note, the very next day, Modi’s BJP was trounced by the Congress Party in elections to the legislative assembly of Karnataka, a crucial state in Indian politics. When the BJP won it five years ago, it was considered a key step in that party’s rise to national dominance. Now, those of us in favor of genuine democracy and not right-wing terror in both countries can only hope that the Karnataka defeat is a harbinger of BJP’s decline (just as we hope that neither Donald Trump nor Ron DeSantis can take the White House in 2024).

But even small victories don’t come without pushback from Hindu-nationalist expatriates and RSS/BJP “intellectuals” in India, as is true with Trumpists in America. Unsurprisingly enough, they condemned the new caste measures in the U.S., declaring them “Hinduphobic” (just as white right-wingers here chant “All Lives Matter” in the context of police violence and to mock the Black Lives Matter movement). But, asks the political theorist Kancha Ilailah Shepherd, “How can the practice of caste discrimination… be tackled without local laws or institutional rules?”

Too many upper-caste Indians and white Americans think of themselves as the only ones worthy of enjoying the spoils of the earth. They want it all and are ready to get it by exploiting, not to say violating, non-upper-caste bodies in India and non-white ones in the U.S., along with cows and fetuses, using religion as a tool in both cases. The bodies of Dalits, Muslims, Christians, the people of occupied Kashmir, liberals, journalists, historians, climate and human rights activists, educators, Blacks, Indigenous people, women, LGBTQ people — all of them are fodder for the violent right-wing in both countries.

In the sludge of such destructive exceptionalism, there can be felt a sense of uncertainty, a potential for both of our societies to break down completely. Sadly, yoga and vegetarianism do not encapsulate life in India; upper-caste exceptionalism does. Similarly, “peace and love,” not to speak of democracy, hardly define life in America anymore for a growing set of Trumpublicans. For them, white exceptionalism does and, worse yet, these days it goes all too well armed with that best-selling weapon of this moment, the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Honestly, there needs to be a deeper discussion of all of this before it’s too late.

Dianne Feinstein is showing signs of cognitive decline. So what?

The Timesrevealed last week that US Senator Dianne Feinstein, the eldest member of the US Congress, was much sicker than previously understood. She didn’t have just shingles. She had brain shingles. As Lindsay Beyerstein noted, in the Editorial Board, she “returned to Washington a shadow of her former self, with some observers describing her physical decline as ‘frightening.’”

“Feinstein’s failure to disclose the full extent of her illness is a profound breach of trust,” Linsday wrote Friday. “It makes you wonder what else she’s hiding.”

Much of the discussion about Feinstein’s health has blurred into debate over geriatrics generally, particularly the so-called “gerontocracy” in which our leading figures are said to be too old to serve. Critics say they aren’t being ageist. They say refusal to step down is rooted in arrogance and selfishness.

READ MORE: The Feinstein mitigation team tries and fails to hide her 'frightening' decline

Perhaps, but I want to point out something about Feinstein’s critics. They seem to be satisfied by arguments that demonstrate that she is showing clear signs of cognitive decline. They seem to believe that, by demonstrating such clear mental deterioration, that they have made their point – that she should resign.

They haven’t, though. The immediate counter to that argument is, well, so what? So what if Dianne Feinstein is showing signs of cognitive decline? Is it preventing her from voting the way a majority of Californians want her to vote? More importantly, is cognitive decline worse than the alternative?

I’ll get to the alternative in a moment.

The Post’s Kathleen Parker seemed to think, in her recent piece, that the rightness of her argument was self-evident. She said that Feinstein looked “weak and diminished” and that “she was in town to resume work, she said, while also saying she’d been at work all along, as though she’d never left.”

READ MORE: Concerned colleagues say Dianne Feinstein 'shockingly diminished' upon return to Senate: report

Parker then recounted this oft-recounted scene: “When a reporter asked whether she meant she had been working from home, Feinstein said, ‘No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting. Please — you either know or don’t know.’”

This is not the homerun Parker seems to think it is.

The truth of anything is determined by its consequences, and whether those consequences are useful to the project of greatest possible human happiness.

In the context of aging figures in this so-called gerontocracy of ours, the truth of their “mental fitness” is best determined by the consequences of it. In brief, can they do what needs doing? If not, is that worse than the alternative?

The alternative is this, in part: If Feinstein resigned today, California’s governor would select a substitute until voters in that state choose a replacement next year. This is usually where arguments by Feinstein’s critics end. In their minds, she can’t serve adequately. She is showing clear signs of cognitive decline. Refusal isn’t just selfish, they say. It undermines the goals of the party.

But, as I said, that’s part of the alternative. The other part features the Senate Republicans and their eagerness to sabotage Joe Biden and his judicial agenda.

Feinstein’s replacement, whether appointed or elected, will not automatically sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate Republicans know that if she resigns, they will have a rare opportunity to block nominees to the federal judiciary or even to the Supreme Court. They will use the two-thirds rules – the filibuster – to prevent a replacement from taking up where she left off.

Feinstein’s critics say that she should go for the sake of the party. But if they fully understood the consequences of what they are demanding, they’d understand that, for the sake of the party, Feinstein should stay where she is.

To be sure, she is showing clear signs of cognitive decline. But, again, so what? She has said she won’t seek reelection. Her storied career ends next year. And compared to the alternative, in which the Republicans paralyze the Senate Judiciary Committee, a few more months of watching Feinstein dodder along seems unimportant. Uncomfortable, I admit, but relatively unimportant.

I expect the counterargument to my counterargument to go something like this: Isn’t it a shame that we must choose between a senator showing clear signs of cognitive decline and Senate Republicans prepared for sabotage?

To which, I say: what are the consequences of this “shameful” choice? Helping an elderly senator dodder along for a few months? All old people need help. Not all of them get to choose, with their vote, the next generation of jurists.

This choice isn’t a shame.

It’s a blessing.

READ MORE: 'No, I haven’t been gone': Dianne Feinstein doesn’t remember absence from Capitol

‘Like a switch had flipped’: Researchers probe if Ozempic treats a 'whole range of addictive' behaviors

Anyone who watches a lot of MSNBC and CNN has been inundated with pharmaceutical ads, including pitches for semaglutide — which is known for treating Type 2 diabetes and is also used as an anti-obesity medication. Cable news largely appeals to older Baby Boomer and Gen-X viewers, who pharma companies reason are more likely to become semaglutide customers.

Semaglutide is sold under brand names that include Rybelsus, Wegovy and Ozempic (whose jingle is based on the 1975 Pilot hit "Magic").

According to Atlantic science/medical writer Sarah Zhang, semaglutide has uses beyond treating diabetes and obesity — including discouraging addictive behaviors in general.

READ MORE: Weight loss drug has this potential fatal side effect

In an article published by The Atlantic on May 19, Zhang explains, "As semaglutide has skyrocketed in popularity, patients have been sharing curious effects that go beyond just appetite suppression. They have reported losing interest in a whole range of addictive and compulsive behaviors: drinking, smoking, shopping, biting nails, picking at skin. Not everyone on the drug experiences these positive effects, to be clear, but enough that addiction researchers are paying attention. And the spate of anecdotes might really be onto something."

Zhang adds, "For years now, scientists have been testing whether drugs similar to semaglutide can curb the use of alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, and opioids in lab animals — to promising results."

It isn't hard to understand why there would be a heavy demand for drugs used to treat Type 2 diabetes, which has become increasingly common in the United States in recent decades. The term "diabesity" has come to describe a combination of diabetes and obesity.

Semaglutide was developed to address a common problem, and according to Zhang, researchers are finding that it affects the brain along with the pancreas.

READ MORE: Ruling by Texas GOP judge could imperil millions of Americans

"Originally developed for diabetes, semaglutide prompts the pancreas to release insulin by mimicking a hormone called GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide 1," Zhang notes. "First-generation GLP-1 analogs — exenatide and liraglutide — have been on the market to treat diabetes for more than a decade. And almost immediately, doctors noticed that patients on these drugs also lost weight — an unintended but usually not unwelcome side effect…. Experts now believe GLP-1 analogs affect more than just the pancreas."

Zhang continues, "The exact mechanism in weight loss is still unclear, but the drugs likely work in multiple ways to suppress hunger, including but not limited to slowing food's passage through the stomach and preventing ups and downs in blood sugar. Most intriguing, it also seems to reach and act directly on the brain."

READ MORE: GOP debt limit bill could out over 10 million at risk of losing Medicaid: analysis

Read The Atlantic's full report at this link (subscription required).

'Embarrassingly historic': GOP governor chided over 'children as photo-op props' at abortion ban signing

Republican Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen on Monday signed into law a twelve-week exceptionless abortion ban and severe restrictions on gender-affirming care.

"Effective immediately," Heartland Signal reported of Legislative Bill 574, "anyone under the age of 19 will not be able to receive gender-affirming care under the new law, while the state’s chief medical officer will have the power to establish limitations on hormone therapy and puberty blockers. Abortion access will be restricted after 12 weeks of gestation with exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of the pregnant person. Despite these harmful regulations, Pillen insisted that this bill is aimed at saving children."

St. Louis Public Radio noted after LB574 cleared the State House of Representatives on May 10th that gender-affirming care "is supported by multiple medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. Doctors say it's rare for minors to undergo any form of transition-related surgery before the age of 18."

READ MORE: 'Buckets of blood on your hands': Nebraska Democrat slams GOP ahead of anti-trans and anti-abortion bill vote

Pillen spoke at a press conference immediately following his consequential act, which the governor performed while being flanked by two girls and cradling an infant swaddled in white.

"Here we go. That is pretty good. And Jenna just said, 'There's more to come in the state of Nebraska,'" Pillen said as baby Jenna cooed.

"Today is an extraordinary, historic day for the state of Nebraska. It's a day where it's really simple. We're standing up to protect our kids so that our state has a bigger and brighter future. LB574 is the most significant win for social conservative agenda in over a generation of Saint Nebraska. I think that's something we need to clap and shout about," Pillen proclaimed to an eruption of audience adulation.

Later in the day, Pillen tweeted that "the passage of LB574 was a historic day for the state of Nebraska. The legislation sent a message that Nebraska will stand up and protect our kids so that they can have a better and brighter future. Together, we can create a culture that embraces life and love."

READ MORE: 'There’s going to be a lawsuit': Nebraska GOP passes ban on gender-affirming healthcare and abortion

LB574's enactment harbingered a swarm of visceral reactions.

American Civil Liberties Union: "Nebraska's bill restricting health care for trans youth and abortion for all confirms: It's the same politicians that are attacking our bodily autonomy and freedom across the board."

Michael E: "It's despicable how politicians use children as photo-op props."

Meredith's Eloquent Ramblings (she/her): "Absolutely shameful. While using a baby as a photo op? Way to 'protect the youth of Nebraska' while objectifying them for your personal agenda. Disgusting."

Robyn D: "If you would wanted to 'embrace life and love' you would have vetoed those hateful bills. But instead you wanted to pander to your base. Who's next in the lineup?"

@zachhhattackkkk: "It actually creates a culture that embraces bigotry and hatred but whatever you say, Jim. Please continue to shape policy off your religious beliefs, it's fantastic…"

Chris H: "Yes, it was historic. Embarrassingly historic."

Jack Torrance's Typewriter: "Hooray for government overreach."

Watch Pillen's remarks below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'I don’t answer to them': Nebraska State Sen. chooses constituents over party by opposing abortion ban

Donald Trump, Matthew Kacsmaryk and 'the man who hated women'

You’ve probably never heard of Anthony Comstock, a Civil War Union soldier and New York Postmaster, who died in 1915. You need to learn about him and his legacy, however, as his long fingers are about to reach up out of the grave and wrap themselves around the necks of every American woman of childbearing years.

Anthony Comstock was a mama’s boy who hated sex. His mother died when he was 10 years old and the shock apparently never left him; women who didn’t live up to her ideal were his open and declared enemies, as were pornography, masturbation, and abortion. He was so ignorant of sex and reproduction that he believed a visible human-like fetus developed “within seconds” of sexual intercourse.

Comstock spent decades scouring the country collecting pornography, which he enthusiastically shared with men in Congress, and harassing “loose women.” For example, when he visited a belly-dancing show (then a new craze) in Chicago at the Cairo Theatre during the World’s Fair of 1893, he demanded the show be shut down.

As Amy Sohn, who wrote a brilliant Comstock biography titled The Man Who Hated Women, noted:

“Despite national controversy and Comstock’s intervention, ultimately the only alteration made to the fair’s belly dancing was costuming: the dancers swapped their gauze blouses for thin woolen undershirts. The vice hunter had lost in Chicago. But he would not forget the dancers, and would have four of them arrested and fined when they came to New York that winter. New York, after all, was Comstockland.”

Comstock lobbied for and shepherded through Congress a law passed on March 3, 1873 titled “An Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, obscene Literature and Articles of immoral Use.” Today we refer to it as the Comstock Act.

Its language with regard to abortion is not at all ambiguous:

“Every obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile article, matter, thing, device, or substance … designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral use; and
“Every article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing which is advertised or described in a manner calculated to lead another to use or apply it for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral purpose; and
“Every written or printed card, letter, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind giving information, directly or indirectly, where, or how, or from whom, or by what means any of such mentioned matters, articles, or things may be obtained or made, or where or by whom any act or operation of any kind for the procuring or producing of abortion will be done or performed, or how or by what means abortion may be produced, whether sealed or unsealed; and
“Every paper, writing, advertisement, or representation that any article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing may, or can, be used or applied for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral purpose; and

“Every description calculated to induce or incite a person to so use or apply any such article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing—
“Is declared to be nonmailable matter and shall not be conveyed in the mails or delivered from any post office or by any letter carrier.” (emphasis mine)

The penalty is also not ambiguous. Persons mailing information about abortion, or drugs or devices to produce an abortion:

“[S]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, for the first such offense, and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both, for each such offense thereafter.”

The Biden administration argues that the Comstock Act of 1873 was set aside almost a century ago.

And, indeed, in 1930, the Appeals Court for the Second Circuit ruled in Youngs Rubber Corp. v. C.I. Lee & Co that the law couldn’t apply to things sent through the mail that are legal, even if they were illegal at the time of the passage of the Comstock Act. (The case involved condoms manufactured by Youngs Rubber.)

“Such a construction,” the court wrote, “would prevent mailing to or by a physician of any drug or mechanical device ‘adapted’ for contraceptive or abortifacient uses, although the physician desired to use or to prescribe it for proper medical purposes.”

The law has been amended by Congress four times (in 1955, 1958, 1971, and 1994), but the language above was never struck because legislators figured the appeals court’s ruling rendered it nugatory.

But don’t tell that to Trump’s appointee Texas District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Amarillo, who ruled last month that Mifepristone was to be banned nationwide: he based a large part of his decision on the plain language of the Comstock Act.

And don’t tell it to the three rightwing judges hearing an appeal this week of Kacsmaryk’s decision before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

When the Biden administration’s attorney argued that Kacsmaryk’s decision was “unprecedented,” Circuit Judge James Ho — also a Trump appointee, who personally swore his good friend Kacsmaryk into his office — interrupted her with a curt snap, saying:

“I guess I’m just wondering why not just focus on the facts of this case rather than have this sort of ‘FDA can do no wrong’ theme.”

The appeals court, made up of a George W. Bush appointee and two Trump appointees, earlier had ruled in their preliminary finding to hear the case that they disagreed with the Biden administration’s assertion that, to quote the three judges, “the [Comstock] law does not mean what it says it means.”

When the Biden interpretation of the Comstock Act was brought up in oral arguments, the Bush appointee, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, said there is “some disagreement” about whether previous court rulings actually invalidated the law.

Republican members of Congress agree, and want the Comstock Act enforced nationwide.

In a letter sent to CVS (among other pharmacy chains), Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and eight other Republican senators (Lankford, Daines, Braun, Rubio, Marshall, Risch, Crapo and Blackburn) wrote that the Biden interpretation (and that of Congress in 1955, 1958, 1971, and 1994) is wrong.

“We write to express our support and agreement with 21 State Attorneys General,” they wrote “who have reminded you that Federal law in 18 U.S.C. 1461-1462 [the Comstock Act] criminalizes nationwide using the mail, or interstate shipment by any express company or common carrier, to send or receive any drug that is ‘designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion.’”

The 1930 court ruling that lawmakers and judges had, for over 90 years, believed only applied the Comstock Act to items that were illegal (like child porn), she wrote:

“[D]oes not protect CVS or any other individual or entity from being prosecuted within the five-year statute of limitations for the illegal mailing or interstate shipment of abortion drugs … even for conduct that occurs today.”

The lawyer for Republicans defending Kacsmaryk’s ruling before the Fifth Circuit, Erin Hawley (the wife of Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley), went so far as to assert before the court that even physicians and pharmacies shouldn’t be able to receive Mifipristone or other drugs that could produce an abortion via the mail, FedEx, or UPS:

“What the Comstock law says is that it is improper to mail things that induce or cause abortions, which is precisely the action the FDA took in 2021 when it permitted the mailing of abortion drugs.”

If Hawley’s interpretation is ultimately adopted by the Supreme Court, all abortions in the United States would be ended when drugs and suction and surgical devices designed specifically for the procedure can no longer be shipped to hospitals, clinics, or physicians’ offices.

And this is no idle threat.

Given how all three judges on the Fifth Circuit reacted to this week’s arguments, most court observers believe they’ll vote to sustain Judge Kacsmaryk’s ruling and ban Mifipristone nationwide, perhaps even outlawing its legal shipment to pharmacies for other uses like helping with incomplete miscarriages.

Other drugs and surgical devices used for abortions are almost certainly next.

As Washington Post reporter Dan Diamond wrote for his Substack newsletter, anti-abortion activist Mark Lee Dickson, who’s helped several cities around the country put into law local versions of the Comstock Act, told him:

“If a future president were to enforce these federal statutes, then they could shut down every abortion facility in America.”

Such a ruling by the Fifth Circuit will kick the whole mess up to the Supreme Court, where six hardcore rightwing Catholics (Gorsuch attends his wife’s church but was raised Catholic) are gleefully rubbing their hands in anticipation.

This battle promises to be long and hard-fought, and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Fifth Circuit’s anticipated decision the only solution will be for Congress to overturn the Comstock Act itself.

And that’s unlikely to happen unless or until Democrats can take back the House, hold the White House, and gain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate in the 2024 election. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Several states are now stockpiling Mifipristone in anticipation of just such a dystopian outcome. Families with women and girls of childbearing age may want to do the same.

Forewarned is forearmed.

An 'uncomfortably high' number of post-pandemic Americans are 'rent-burdened': report

During the 2000s and 2010s, New York City-based rent control activist and Vietnam veteran Jimmy McMillan laid out a variety of ways in which high rents were making life difficult for New Yorkers. McMillan, founder of The Rent Is Too Damn High Party, argued that New Yorkers were skimping on everything from food to healthcare because they were spending so much of their income on rent.

The problem has only grown worse since then — and not just in New York. According to a report published by Axios on May 22, residents of six U.S. cities now fit Moody's Analytics' definition of being "rent-burdened."

Peck, drawing on Moody's data, reports, "Back in 1999, New York City was the only 'rent- burdened' metro area in the U.S. — meaning renters paid 54 percent of income for rent, according to Moody's. By the end of last year, there were six metros in that pricey club, including Miami, 42 percent; Boston, 33 percent; and Los Angeles, 35 percent."

READ MORE: How millennials’ troubled finances are a 'ticking timebomb' as they enter middle age: journalist

Financial planning experts, back in the 1980s and 1990s, argued that Americans should spend no more than 25 perfect of their monthly income on rent — that is, spend on rent in a month what they made in a week. But in 2023, Moody's definition of being rent-burdened means spending more than twice that.

McMillan has often complained that high rents make it harder to save for a down payment on a home.

According to Peck, the COVID-19 pandemic caused more Americans to become "rent-burdened."

"The median renter in the U.S. would need to spend 29.6 percent of their monthly income on an average rent in the first quarter of 2023, per a report from Moody's Analytics," Peck observes. "That's an 'uncomfortably high; ratio, per Moody's — though it's a slight dip from last year when the rent-to-income threshold crossed 30 percent for the first time ever. And the rub? It's still cheaper to rent than buy in the vast majority of the U.S."

READ MORE: Paul Krugman reveals NYC’s biggest problem — and it's not crime

Peck continues, "According to a Redfin report out last week, there are only four major metro areas in the U.S. where a typical home has a lower monthly mortgage cost than its estimated rent (Philadelphia, Houston, Cleveland and Detroit)…. Rents surged in the pandemic for a variety of reasons, and they remain high now partly as a side effect of surging mortgage rates. Those rates are keeping would-be first-time homebuyers on the sidelines — and that's pushing up demand for rentals."

READ MORE: To end 'disgrace' of poverty wages Sanders’ bill would raise federal minimum to $17

Axios' entire report can be found at this link.

'Market fundamentalism' is an obstacle to social progress

A changing world order, a shrinking U.S. empire, migrations and related demographic shifts, and major economic crashes have all enhanced religious fundamentalisms around the world. Beyond religions, other ideological fundamentalisms likewise provide widely welcomed reassurances. One of the latter—market fundamentalism—invites and deserves criticism as a major obstacle to navigating this time of rapid social change. Market fundamentalism attributes to that particular social institution a level of perfection and “optimality” quite parallel to what fundamentalist religions attribute to prophets and divinities.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Yet markets are just one among many social means of rationing. Anything scarce relative to demand for it raises the same question: Who will get it and who must do without it? The market is one institutional way to ration the scarce item. In a market, those who want it bid up its price leading others to drop out because they cannot or will not pay the higher price. When higher prices have eliminated the excess of demand over supply, scarcity is gone, and no more bidding up is required. Those able and willing to pay the higher prices are satisfied by receiving distributions of the available supply.

The market has thus rationed out the scarce supply. It has determined who gets and who does not. Clearly, the richer a buyer is, the more likely that buyer will welcome, endorse, and celebrate “the market system.” Markets favor rich buyers. Such buyers in turn will more likely support teachers, clerics, politicians, and others who promote arguments that markets are “efficient,” “socially positive,” or “best for everyone.”

Yet even the economics profession—which routinely celebrates markets—includes a sizable—if underemphasized—literature about how, why, and when free (i.e., unregulated) markets do not work efficiently or in socially positive ways. That literature has developed concepts like “imperfect competition,” “market distortions,” and “externalities,” to pinpoint markets failing to be efficient or benefit social welfare. Social leaders who have had to deal with actual markets in society have likewise repeatedly intervened in them when and because markets worked in socially unacceptable ways. Thus, we have minimum wage laws, maximum interest-rate laws, price-gouging laws, and tariff and trade wars. Practical people know that “leaving matters to the market” has often yielded disasters (e.g., the crashes of 2000, 2008, and 2020) overcome by massive, sustained governmental regulation of and intervention in markets.

So then why do market fundamentalists celebrate a rationing system—the market—that in both theory and practice is more replete with holes than a block of Swiss cheese? Libertarians go so far as to promote a “pure” market economy as a realizable utopia. Such a pure market system is their policy to fix the massive problems they admit exist in contemporary (impure) capitalism. Libertarians are forever frustrated by their lack of success.

For many reasons, markets ought not claim anyone’s loyalty. Among alternative systems of rationing scarcity, markets are clearly inferior. For example, in many religious, ethical, and moral traditions, basic precepts urge or insist that scarcity be addressed by a rationing system based on their respective concepts of human need. Many other rationing systems—including the U.S. version used in World War II—dispensed with the market system and substituted a needs-based rationing system managed by the government.

Rationing systems could likewise be based on age, type of work performed, employment status, family situation, health conditions, distance between home and workplace, or other criteria. Their importance relative to one another and relative to some composite notion of “need,” could and should be determined democratically. Indeed, a genuinely democratic society would let the people decide which (if any) scarcities should be rationed by the market and which (if any) by alternative rationing systems.

Market fetishists will surely trot out their favorite rationalizations with which to regale students. For example, they argue that when buyers bid up prices for scarce items other entrepreneurs will rush in with more supply to capture those higher prices, thereby ending the scarcity. This simple-minded argument fails to grasp that the entrepreneurs cashing in on the higher prices for scarce items have every incentive and many of the means to prevent, delay, or block altogether the entry of new suppliers. Actual business history shows that they often do so successfully. In other words, glib assurances about reactions to market prices are ideological noise and little else.

We can also catch the market fetishizers in their own contradictions. When justifying the sky-high pay packages of mega-corporate CEOs, we are told their scarcity requires their high prices. The same folks explain to us that to overcome scarcity of wage labor, it was necessary to cut U.S. workers’ pandemic-era unemployment supplement, not to raise their wages. During times of scarcity, markets often reveal to capitalists the possibility of earning higher profits on lower volumes of product and sales. If they prioritize profits and when they can afford to bar others’ entry, they will produce and sell less at higher prices to a richer clientele. We are watching that process unfold in the United States now.

The neoliberal turn in U.S. capitalism since the 1970s yielded big profits from a globalized market system. However, outside the purview of neoliberal ideology, that global market catapulted the Chinese economy forward far faster than the United States and far faster than the United States found acceptable. Thus the United States junked its market celebrations (substituting intense “security” concerns) to justify massive governmental interventions in markets to thwart Chinese development: a trade war, tariff wars, chip subsidies, and sanctions. Awkwardly and unpersuasively, the economic profession keeps teaching about the efficiency of free or pure markets, while students learn from the news all about U.S. protectionism, market management, and the need to turn away from the free market gods previously venerated.

Then too the market-based health care system of the United States challenges market fundamentalism: the United States has 4.3 percent of the world population but accounted for 16.9 percent of the world’s COVID-19 deaths. Might the market system bear a significant share of the blame and fault here? So dangerous is the potential disruption of ideological consensus that it becomes vital to avoid asking the question, let alone pursuing a serious answer.

During the pandemic, millions of workers were told that they were “essential” and “front-line responders.” A grateful society appreciated them. As they often noted, the market had not rewarded them accordingly. They got very low wages. They must not have been scarce enough to command better. That’s how markets work. Markets do not reward what is most valuable and essential. They never did. They reward what is scarce relative to people’s ability to buy, no matter the social importance we give to the actual work and roles people play. Markets pander to where the money is. No wonder the rich subsidize market fundamentalism. The wonder is why the rest of society believes or tolerates it.

Author Bio: Richard D. Wolff is professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, in New York. Wolff’s weekly show, “Economic Update,” is syndicated by more than 100 radio stations and goes to 55 million TV receivers via Free Speech TV. His three recent books with Democracy at Work are The Sickness Is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us From Pandemics or Itself, Understanding Socialism, and Understanding Marxism, the latter of which is now available in a newly released 2021 hardcover edition with a new introduction by the author.

Scientists to G7 leaders: Prepare for next pandemic by combating Big Pharma greed

A group of scientists warned the leaders of rich countries on Thursday that the world is badly unprepared for the next pandemic and must urgently lay the groundwork for a swift, equitable global response that puts lives over pharmaceutical industry profits.

In a letter to the heads of G7 nations as they gathered in Hiroshima for their annual summit, 16 scientists from South Africa, Brazil, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Japan, Indonesia, and other nations wrote that "it is critical that in the next health crisis the world rapidly deploys medical countermeasures in every country, regardless of their ability to pay," invoking the deadly failure to ensure sufficient access to Covid-19 vaccines in poor nations.

A just response, the scientists wrote, "requires removing every barrier to the development and production of medicines and vaccines—an area where the world failed during the Covid-19 and AIDS pandemics."

"Upholding strict intellectual property rules secured monopolies for pharmaceutical companies and prevented the widespread production of affordable generic vaccines and medicines in developing countries," they continued. "We write to you to emphasize and ask that you center the protection of human rights, such as the right to health and the right to benefit from scientific progress, over windfall profits."

The scientists' letter comes weeks after two dozen pharmaceutical company CEOs—including Eli Lilly chief David Ricks—met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to discuss ways to "strengthen the power of science and an innovation ecosystem built on the protection of intellectual property rights and free access to pathogens."

That was how the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA)—a powerful industry trade group whose membership list includes Pfizer, Moderna, and Merck—described the meeting with Kishida, which took place less than a month after the World Health Organization (WHO) formally declared the coronavirus pandemic over as a global health emergency.

The death toll from the pandemic is believed to be in the tens of millions, and research has shown that many deaths could have been averted with more equal vaccine access worldwide.

But efforts to remove barriers that hindered vaccine production and distribution—including patent laws—were blocked by rich countries at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, which furiously opposed any changes that threatened their monopoly control over the lifesaving shots.

IFPMA was at the center of those aggressive lobbying efforts.

"We cannot double-down on implementation of intellectual property rules that make pandemics longer, costlier, and deadlier."

In their letter to G7 leaders—a group that includes Kishida, U.S. President Joe Biden, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—the scientists expressed dismay that the pharmaceutical industry is still "advocating a maximalist approach to intellectual property, disregarding the impact on public health."

"This is an extreme view that flies in the fact of mainstream scientific opinion," they wrote. "This position endangers the kind of scientific collaboration that is essential to properly prevent, prepare for, and respond to health crises, especially infectious diseases. It condemns most people who live in low and middle-income countries to remain at the back of the line in any future pandemic and exposes them inequitably to death and devastation for longer than people in high-income countries."

Dr. Craig Spencer, associate professor of the practice at Brown University School of Public Health and one of the new letter's signatories, said in a statement Thursday that "we believe that the right to health is more important than windfall profits, particularly in a health crisis."

"The pharmaceutical industry will always lobby to maximize their own profits, regardless of the impact on public health, but G7 leaders must resist," said Spencer. "We cannot double-down on implementation of intellectual property rules that make pandemics longer, costlier, and deadlier."

Another letter signatory, Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim of the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), added that "G7 Health Ministers have discussed preparing for the next pandemic but have not considered important lessons from Covid-19."

The letter cited one model that put the possibility of another pandemic as deadly as Covid-19 within the next 10 years at 27.5%. It also points to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencessuggesting that "the annual probability of extreme epidemics occurring could increase threefold in the coming decades."

While the scientists said they were encouraged by elements of the WHO's draft pandemic treaty, noting that it includes "provisions to increase the transfer of medical technology to developing countries and to support the suspension of intellectual property rules," they expressed concern that those proposals could suffer the same fate as earlier efforts to waive patent rules.

"We are not asking you to force or demand that institutions are uncompensated for their work, but we urge you make sure compensation is fair and just, and to resist the lobbying of institutions that have prioritized profits over people and public health needs," the scientists wrote. "There is no time to waste."

Survey cites gun violence as America’s top health threat

When journalists in Europe or Asia report on mass shootings in the United States, they are often shocked by how frequently they occur. Terrorism and political violence are a problem all over the world, yet the U.S. is unique in how often it suffers mass shootings.

In an Axios/Ipsos poll released on May 18, Americans cited gun violence as the United States' #1 health threat.

Twenty-five percent of participants named "opioids/fentanyl" as America's second worst danger to health compared to 26 percent for gun violence. And others in the survey picked obesity (20 percent), cancer (8 percent), "unsafe roads or driving" (3 percent), or "tobacco products" (3 percent). Only 3 percent named COVID-19.

READ MORE: 'Thoughts and prayers are not enough': President Joe Biden hits Republicans over inaction on gun violence

Read Axios' full report at this link.

'Buckets of blood on your hands': Nebraska Democrat slams GOP ahead of anti-trans and anti-abortion bill vote

Nebraska State Republicans are set to advance legislation targeting both gender-affirming care and abortion access.

Democratic State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh has been voicing her opposition for months against LB574, also known as the Let Them Grow Act, which would ban gender-affirming surgeries under the age of 19.

In addition to banning gender-affirming care, LB574 would also allow "Nebraska's chief medical officer regulatory power over other treatments, including hormone therapy and puberty blockers," KETV reports.

READ MORE: 'I will burn the session to the ground' over anti-trans bill, says Nebraska Democrat

Now, GOP State Senator Ben Hansen has amended that legislation, adding a 12-week abortion ban, according to Omaha's KETV— although, "opponents say the way it's written has it more like a 10-week ban, because the 12 weeks starts from a woman's last period."

The Republican lawmakers voted to advance the anti-trans and anti-abortion legislation earlier this week, prompting Cavanaugh to share her outrage on the Senate floor.

Heartland Signal shared a clip from Cavanaugh's speech, writing, "NE State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (D) thrashes her GOP colleagues as they merge abortion and gender-affirming care bans into one bill: 'Women will die. Children are dying. It is your fault ... If you vote for this, you will have buckets and buckets of blood on your hands.'"

The senator said, "It looks bad. It looks really, really bad. And Senator Repi. Senator Hansen is not going to repeal the criminal penalties because if he were, he would've tried to get an amendment on here. He would've tried to supplement this amendment with what you were asking for between the time he filed it. And today he's lying to you and he's lying to us."

READ MORE: 'Woman of my word': Why this Nebraska senator's filibuster of anti-trans bill is still going

She continued, "And if you vote for it, you know that you know he's lying to you. Don't assuage your guilt. One minute women will die. Children are dying. It is your fault. It is your fault, and you are allowing it to happen. You do literally have blood on your hands, and if you vote for this, you will have buckets and buckets of blood on your hands. Thank you, Mr. President."

Another Democratic lawmaker, Senator Megan Hunt shared her thoughts, saying, "We all know what's going on with this bill and what you guys have put on to it. Whether we're talking about mothers with devastating fetal diagnoses, who you think should be forced to carry a baby to term that has a brain outside of its head... What is wrong with you?" If you can't go out there and face the people you are harming, hurting today, then you are not worthy of this job."

Cavanaugh's work to filibuster the bill since March has helped to prevent it from passing, but now that the legislation is "one vote away" from reaching Nebraska Republican Governor Jim Pillen's desk, the senator's efforts may not be successful.

Still, the determined lawmaker has previously said she will do anything she can to make life "painful" for her GOP colleagues if they proceed with the bill.

READ MORE: 'Only thing I have is time': Nebraska Sen. unmoved by colleagues’ frustration as she blocks anti-trans bill

Watch Cavanaugh's address below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'Only thing I have is time': Nebraska Sen. unmoved by colleagues’ frustration as she blocks anti-trans bill

Click here to view KETV's full report.

'We are at war': Anti-trans activists lock arms with North Carolina GOP gubernatorial frontrunner

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson praised Moms for Liberty, a conservative group that opposes transgender rights, as the modern-day equivalent of Betsy Ross, Rosie the Riveter and Rosa Parks.

Members of the group, who are in Raleigh to lobby the North Carolina General Assembly for legislation prohibiting transgender girls and women from participating in female sports and to ban gender reassignment surgery for minors, greeted Robinson by saying, “We love you, Mark!”

“And I love you,” Robinson responded.

Robinson addressed the conservative group, which has pushed culture-war battles at local school boards across the country by assailing pandemic restrictions and demanding book bans while building electoral power, during a reception today at his official residence. Among the speakers was a lobbyist for Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing Christian legal group that one prominent extremism watchdog has publicly designated as a "hate group."

Reps. Ken Fontenot and John Torbett, two Republican lawmakers, also spoke at the event.

Several speakers at the event struck martial tones, including Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich, who traveled from Florida to attend.

“We are at war,” Descovich said. “But you have heard that.”

Nathan Street, a former music teacher who resigned from a public elementary school in Greensboro while under investigation for allegedly physically abusing students, was in attendance. During his speech, he asked the Moms for Liberty members to "give me your best muscle pose." When they obliged he enthused, "Whew, look at them guns down there! I love it. I love it."

Flexing his biceps, Street added, "When it's all said and done, you're able to do this, and you're able to say, 'Bring it, pal. I'm ready to fight you and I'm ready to take you down to the mat, whatever I've got to do to win."

Robinson, who is considered the Republican front-runner in North Carolina's 2024 gubernatorial election, compared the nation's current political climate to that of the Civil War.

“I know people say we’re more divided now than at any time in our history,” Robinson said. “I would remind those individuals that we fought a civil war. And even though we were divided not just along political lines, not just along geographic lines, we were actually on opposite sides of battle killing each other on battlefields. Blood was shed. More blood than has ever been shed by Americans in our history was shed during our civil war because we were fighting over those essential rights — states’ rights, the rights of individuals, liberty itself. We came out of that war stronger than ever.”

Robinson rocketed to recognition in 2018 when he addressed the Greensboro City Council in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schoolhigh school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The viral video of his populist appeal for gun rights earned him the keynote speaker slot at the National Rifle Association convention and made him a darling of conservative media. He was elected lieutenant governor in 2020, with no prior political experience.

Since his election as lieutenant governor, Robinson’s anti-LGBTQ statements from church pulpits have generated outrage.

In June 2021, he told the congregation in Seagrove, N.C., that LGBTQ “issues have no place in a school,” adding, “There’s no reason anybody in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality — any of that filth.”

More recently, during a sermon in a church in Mooresville, N.C., outside of Charlotte, Robinson mocked churches that are welcome LGBTQ people, saying, “You see so many pastors right now will say in their pulpits, ‘I don’t want this church to be political, I don’t want to talk about politics that have anything to do with religion. We used to be religious in this church, and we’re going to love, we’re going to accept everybody, and we’re going to accept everything. I’m going to fly a rainbow flag out front and spit right in the face of God.’”

A sign propped against the porch at the lieutenant governor’s residence read, “We do not co-parent with the government.”

Across the street from the event at Robinson's residence, Blue Miller, one of roughly a dozen protesters, taunted the Moms for Liberty activists while the chief state government lobbyist for the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom spoke.

“You say you’re not co-parenting with the government — at the governor’s mansion lawn and you’re going to speak to the General Assembly?” said Miller, who is a transgender person. “You guys are trying to take this state and run it. I mean, you all are trying to be the state. You’re schmoozing with the state.”

Alliance for Defending Freedom, which defended a Colorado baker who refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple before the Supreme Court in 2018, has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The watchdog group, which tracks extremism, asserts that Alliance Defending Freedom has “supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad,” citing the group’s support for a Texas law criminalizing sodomy, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003.

The Alliance Defending Freedom disputes the characterization, contending it “has never supported the passage of law criminalizing homosexuality.”

Asked if Robinson was comfortable with Alliance Defending Freedom’s positions, John W. Waugh, a spokesperson told Raw Story in an email: “The Lt. Governor has said time and time again that he will defend the rights of ALL North Carolinians.”

The budding alliance between Robinson and Moms for Liberty echoes the group’s alignment with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is likely to seek the presidency in 2024 alongside at least several other Republican candidates, most notably former President Donald Trump.

Moms for Liberty helped mobilize the activist base for DeSantis’ successful reelection campaign last year. DeSantis aligned with the group’s “parent’s rights” messaging, and spoke at its most recent national summit in Tampa in July 2022. This year, Moms for Liberty has announced that Robinson will be part of the speaker lineup at the upcoming national summit in Philadelphia in July, and the group is expected to play a similar role in his gubernatorial campaign.

Concerned colleagues say Dianne Feinstein 'shockingly diminished' upon return to Senate: report

United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) returned to work last week in Washington, D.C., appearing "shockingly diminished" and "frail," The New York Times reports.

The 89-year-old senator is still visibly struggling through her recovery from shingles, which according toThe Times "spread to her face and neck, causing vision and balance impairments and facial paralysis known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome."

The longtime lawmaker, however, still "sees the job as her calling" and has been resistant to calls for her resignation from the physically and mentally demanding job.

READ MORE: 'Causing great harm': AOC nudges Dianne Feinstein to 'consider' resigning

The Times reports:

Characterized by swelling of the brain, post-shingles encephalitis can leave patients with lasting memory or language problems, sleep disorders, bouts of confusion, mood disorders, headaches and difficulties walking. Older patients tend to have the most trouble recovering. And even before this latest illness, Ms. Feinstein had already suffered substantial memory issues that had raised questions about her mental capacity.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said, "After talking with her multiple times over the past few weeks, it’s clear she's back where she wants to be and ready to deliver for California."

However, another senator told The Times that watching the senator "in her current state" has been "frightening."

Similarly, major Democratic donor and a longtime Feinstein supporter, Susie Tompkins Buell, told The Times, "I admire the senator deeply, and I am sorry she is so not well, but the Senate has critical, challenging work to do, and as the stakes are so high and she is not able to be present, to be informed and active, let alone have the rest she needs in order to recover, I feel she needs to step down. And yet she isn’t willing in this state of mind."

READ MORE: Progressives are dogpiling Dianne Feinstein because they sense weakness

Regarding how future Senate health complications, Sen. Katie Porter (D-CA) told CNN Thursday, "We're going to have more people who are absent, we're going to have more people who fall sick, we are going to have more Senators who age given the age of the body," Porter said. "And I think we need some forward-looking policies, not just focus on Senator Feinstein – although I understand the concerns – but really look at how we're going to deal with this structurally."

She continued, "This is unfortunately not the first time that we've had this situation where we had real concerns about how senators are recovering and whether they’re able to come back and really do the job."

READ MORE: Should Sen. Feinstein resign?

The New York Times' full report is available at this link (subscription required).

'This is about protecting children': Gun control foe Greg Abbott will sign ban on gender-affirming care

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) pledged to sign legislation into law that would outlaw gender-affirming care for most residents under eighteen years of age in the Lone Star State.

CNN reported on Thursday that Senate Bill 14 — which the Republican-dominated State Senate sent to Abbott's desk late Wednesday night — "would block a minor's access to gender reassignment surgeries, puberty-blocking medication, and hormone therapies, and providing this care to trans youth would lead to the revocation of a health care provider's license."

CNN noted that the restrictions will take effect on September 1st.

READ MORE: 'A death sentence': How one trans Texas teen is navigating bans on gender-affirming care

"I'm not, not gonna make any secret about it. I'll be signing it," Abbott told Fox News host Harris Faulkner.

"This is about protecting children," insisted Abbott, who has refused to take any meaningful action to reduce gun violence.

"Now remember this, and that is a person under the age of eighteen, they don't have the mental capacity to make a life-changing decision to lose their sex organs. And in the State of Texas, if you're under the age of eighteen, you can't get a tattoo, you can't buy cigarettes, and so many other things. But people think that they should be able to make a decision to permanently alter their sex organs? That's just outrageous," the governor asserted. "In Texas, we believe, uh, that cutting off the child's sex organs is child abuse, and it's gonna be treated that way by law."

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: Texas Supreme Court rules in favor of state inflicting 'irreparable harm' on transgender kids

Disturbing report breaks down America’s suicide crisis by gender

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, political instability, inflation and other problems, the United States has been suffering a mental health crisis. And suicide is a tragic consequence.

In a report published by The Hill on May 18, journalist Daniel De Visé breaks down suicide in the U.S. by gender.

"Paradoxically, women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to die by suicide," De Visé explains. "The main reason is firearms. A person who attempts suicide with a gun is many times more likely to die than someone who uses another method, such as pills or self-inflicted cuts."

READ MORE: Texas Agricultural Department seeking annual $500,000 for mental health line as farmer suicide rates rise

The journalist notes that according to a Gallup survey released on May 17, 37 percent of women in the U.S. have been diagnosed with depression at some point compared to only 20 percent of men.

Using a gun for suicide, De Visé stresses, "makes the decision final." He observes that between 2015 and 2020, according to federal data, "122,178 men" in the U.S. "died of suicide by firearm compared to 19,297 women."

Suicide prevention expert Elly Stout, who works at the Education Development Center, told The Hill, "Even at the moment when the person has decided to make the attempt, there's a lot of ambivalence. If you take a bunch of pills, there is a moment where you can change your mind."

READ MORE: How 'incel culture' combines 'dangerous far-right ideologies' with mental health problems: report

The Hill's full report is available in its entirety at this link.

Medicare for All reintroduced as 'solution' to save $650 billion and 68,000 lives per year

Economic justice and human rights advocates applauded Wednesday as progressives in the U.S. House and Senate reintroduced legislation to expand the Medicare system to all Americans, with the bill garnering more support in Congress than ever before.

More than half of the Democratic caucus in the House has signed on as co-sponsors of the Medicare for All Act of 2023, including 13 powerful ranking members of congressional committees.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was joined by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) in leading more than 120 lawmakers inintroducing the bill, with a number of supporters speaking about the worsening healthcare crisis at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

"We live in a country where millions of people ration lifesaving medication or skip necessary trips to the doctor because of cost," said Jayapal. "Sadly, the number of people struggling to afford care continues to skyrocket as millions of people lose their current health insurance as pandemic-era programs end. Breaking a bone or getting sick shouldn't be a reason that people in the richest country in the world go broke."

"There is a solution to this health crisis—a popular one that guarantees healthcare to every person as a human right and finally puts people over profits and care over corporations," the congresswoman added. "That solution is Medicare for All—everyone in, nobody out."

About 15 million people in the U.S. are set to lose their health coverage this year as pandemic-era assistance ends, adding to the 85 million people who are currently either uninsured or underinsured—with coverage that includes high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs, leaving them unable to afford the healthcare they need.

Sanders, who has advocated for a government-run health program for decades, noted in a press statement than 68,000 people per year in the U.S. die due to a lack of health coverage.

"The American people understand, as I do, that healthcare is a human right, not a privilege," said Sanders, who serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. "As we speak, there are millions of people who would like to go to a doctor but cannot afford to do so. That is an outrage... We must act to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth to not guarantee healthcare to all."

Under the Medicare for All Act, the existing Medicare program—which is generally open only to people age 65 and older—would be expanded to everyone in the United States and would allow them to obtain primary, vision, dental, reproductive, and mental healthcare; prescription drugs; substance abuse treatment; long-term healthcare services; and other medical care without any cost at the point of service.

The program would run similarly to government-run health programs that have long existed in other wealthy countries.

While detractors—including lawmakers who take substantial donations from the for-profit health insurance industry—have frequently claimed that Medicare for All would be too expensive, a Congressional Budget Office analysis found in 2020 that the program would save between $300 billion and $650 billion annually.

"A study by RAND found that moving to a Medicare for All system would save a family with an income of less than $185,000 about $3,000 a year, on average," said Sanders' office in a statement.

The lawmakers introduced the legislation a day after Sanders and Jayapal hosted a town hall on Capitol Hill where they were joined by patients, doctors, and nurses whose experiences in the U.S. healthcare system illustrate the need for Medicare for All.

Dr. Natasha Driver, a first-year obstetrics and gynecology resident at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., said she recently cared for a woman whose service industry job did not provide her with health insurance.

"When I first met her after delivery, she refused treatments which were part of routine postpartum care for the simple reason that she couldn't afford them," said Driver. "This is a regrettable and all too common occurrence in the practice of medicine, especially for those of us who work with the underserved. Medicare for All would reduce the problem of uninsurance and allow me to adequately care for my patients."

Robert Weissman, president of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, noted that while millions of Americans lack health coverage that would allow them to receive adequate care, health insurers, hospital chains, and pharmaceutical companies "are generating staggering profits," with insurance companies making more than $69 billion last year.

"It's time for Americans to stop being treated like suckers. It's time to make healthcare a right. It's time for Medicare for All," said Weissman. "A system of expanded and improved Medicare for All would reduce our spending on healthcare while providing universal access, better outcomes, and more equity."

"With Medicare for All, healthcare decisions would be made by patients and doctors—not for-profit insurance companies thinking about their bottom lines," he added. "There would never be another medical bankruptcy. Having decent coverage would not depend on where a person works or whether they are employed or married. Patients could take their prescriptions on schedule, without worrying about price."

Social Security Works (SSW) pointed out that the legislation is being introduced as Republicans threaten the Medicare and Social Security systems with their proposal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for social spending cuts.

"Medicare for All's supporters envision a future where Medicare is improved to include dental, hearing, vision and long-term care, and then expanded to cover everyone in America," said Alex Lawson, executive director of SSW. "A future without delays or denials, without copays or deductibles. A future where everyone gets the care they need. Meanwhile, Republicans want to make our current profit-driven healthcare system even worse."

"The best way for Democrats to stop that from happening," Lawson said, "is to go on offense with full-fledged support for Medicare for All."

'Shifts in views among Republicans' fueling vaccine hesitancy: WaPo editorial board

A recently published survey conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals "deepening vaccine hesitancy in the United States," citing "shifts in views among Republicans" as the cause, The Washington Post editorial board opined on Wednesday.

The board defines "vaccine hesitancy" as "the tendency of people to hold back out of suspicion, disinformation and anti-vaccine lobbying."

The March survey, which represents 10,701 United States adults discovered Americans "remain steadfast in their belief in the overall value of childhood vaccines" — "with no change over four years 'in the large majority who say the benefits of childhood vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) outweigh the risks.'"

READ MORE: 'Absurd but also dangerous': WaPo Editorial Board torches Ron DeSantis' war on COVID-19 vaccines

However, the same report "highlights enduring skepticism about coronavirus vaccines," noting, "fewer than half of U.S. adults believe the preventive health benefits of coronavirus vaccines are high, while 7 in 10 hold this view of the childhood measles vaccines."

As a result, the United States, according to the board, "is facing a tide of uncertainty that is unwarranted by the lifesaving performance of vaccines during the pandemic."

For example, the board writes the change in Republicans' views has resulted in "a surprising 28 percent of those responding" saying "parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children," noting this as an increase of "12 points from four years ago."

The Postexplains:

In 2019, 79 percent of them said they supported requiring children to be vaccinated to attend public schools; that has now shrunk to 57 percent. By contrast, there is 'no meaningful change' in the 85 percent of Democrats who support such a requirement. Also unsettling, White evangelical Protestants backed such school requirements by 77 percent to 20 percent four years ago, but in the latest survey, the support was 58 percent to 40 percent.

Noting a major measles outbreak among children in 2019, the board reports, "The rest of the world has suffered more disease because the pandemic disrupted many childhood immunization campaigns," adding, "the solution is to counter the disinformation and to realize that anti-vaccine statements on social media, in particular, can be extremely harmful and misleading.

READ MORE: Watch: Ron DeSantis falsely declares that bivalent COVID-19 boosters make infections 'more likely'

The Washington Post's full report is available at this link (subscription required).

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