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Despair in Europe's Camps

One year after European Union leaders signed a deal with the Turkish government to cut off the wave of desperate refugees seeking to reach Europe’s shores, the policy has caused even more death and suffering.

As of March 14, nearly 20,000 refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe this year after making the desperate trip across the Mediterranean Sea, according to the latest figures from the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project. That’s a sharp drop compared to the same period last year, when more than 152,700 people entered Europe.

Yet the number of migrant and refugee deaths has actually risen — as a direct consequence of EU governments clamping down on their borders, forcing refugees into ever-more-dangerous crossings. As of March 14, some 525 had been killed or gone missing this year, while 482 were reported killed or missing in the first 73 days of 2016.

Under last year’s deal, the repressive regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was given billions in aid, ostensibly for the refugees, and promised faster progress in Turkey’s negotiations to join the EU. In exchange, Turkey agreed to take in undocumented refugees arriving in Greece. For each refugee sent to Turkey, the EU promised to take in a refugee directly from Turkey’s camps at some point in the future.

As a result, just under a thousand refugees have been deported to Turkey from Greece. But thousands more already in Greece have been stranded in a kind of legal limbo resulting from EU leaders’ unwillingness to let them in — stuck in abysmal conditions in what amounts to little more than prison camps.

“Many of the camps are overcrowded and there are frequent clashes, with those inside tired of the long wait for asylum papers and fearful of being returned to Turkey,” <a class="colorbox" rel="nofollow" href="https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-03-19/eu-migrant-deal-turkey-has-turned-greek-islands-open-air-prisons" …read more

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How Chicago Became the First City to Make Reparations to Victims of Police Violence

Victims of alleged torture by Chicago Police stand during a City Council meeting at City Hall in Chicago, May 6, 2015. The City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations package for victims of police torture during the 1970s and '80s under the watch of a notorious police commander, Jon Burge. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The New York Times)

With the election of Donald Trump, it seems unlikely that reparations will move forward at a national scale anytime soon. But Chicago’s ordinance provides a model for creating reparations at the local level, even in the face of daunting circumstances.

Victims of alleged torture by Chicago Police stand during a City Council meeting at City Hall in Chicago, May 6, 2015. The City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations package for victims of police torture during the 1970s and ’80s under the watch of a notorious police commander, Jon Burge. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The New York Times)

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Somewhere between his 12th and 13th hour inside a Chicago Police Department interrogation room, Lindsey Smith decided to confess to a murder he didn’t commit. Multiple officers had pistol-whipped, stomped on, and beaten him, again and again. Convinced he would not otherwise live through the ordeal, Smith signed a false confession for the attempted murder of a 12-year-old White boy. At 17, Smith too was a boy. But with one major difference: He was Black.

Tried as an adult and convicted, Smith took a plea deal and served nearly five years in prison.

He was among the first of at least 120 young, primarily Black men whom Chicago police officers would torture into false confessions. Yet while many who suffer at the hands of the police never get justice, Smith’s story ended differently. More than 40 years later, following the passage of historic reparations legislation, he became one of the first Black people in America to be granted reparations for racial violence.

After receiving parole, Smith moved out of …read more

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The Power of Ordinary People Facing Totalitarianism

In the weeks since the election of President Donald J. Trump, sales of George Orwell’s “1984” have skyrocketed. But so have those of a lesser-known title, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” by a German Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt.

“The Origins of Totalitarianism” discusses the rise of the totalitarian movements of Nazism and Stalinism to power in the 20th century. Arendt explained that such movements depended on the unconditional loyalty of the masses of “slumbering majorities,” who felt dissatisfied and abandoned by a system they perceived to be “fraudulent” and corrupt. These masses sprang to the support of a leader who made them feel they had a place in the world by belonging to a movement.

I am a scholar of political theory and have written books and scholarly essays on Arendt’s work. Published more than 50 years ago, Arendt’s insights into the development of totalitarianism seem especially relevant to discussions of similar threats to American democracy today.

Who Was Hannah Arendt?

Arendt was born in Hanover, Germany in 1906 into a secular Jewish household. She began studying the classics and Christian theology, before turning to philosophy. Subsequent developments made her turn her attention to her Jewish identity and political responses to it.

It began in the mid-1920s, when the nascent Nazi Party started spreading its anti-Semitic ideology at mass rallies. Following the arson attack on the Reichstag (the German Parliament), on Feb. 27, 1933, the Nazis blamed the Communists for plotting against the German government. A day later, the German president declared a state of emergency. The regime, in short order, deprived citizens of basic rights and subjected them to preventive detention. After Nazi parliamentary victories a week later, the Nazis consolidated power, passing legislation …read more

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Hospitals Are Throwing Out Perfectly Usable Medical Supplies

If you’ve spent much time in a hospital, you’ve probably noticed piles of medical supplies everywhere you look. But you might be surprised by the hidden waste behind the stacks of butterfly needles, rolls of gauze and myriad other tools that make a hospital tick.

A ProPublica investigation has revealed shockingly profligate waste in the U.S. health care industry, and that’s not good for anyone — except the hospitals in developing nations that receive discarded medical supplies from charities that attempt to mitigate the waste.

There are many reasons why hospitals throw out perfectly usable supplies, like single-use items that haven’t expired yet or used medical equipment that’s in good working condition, if a little old.

One is the very real desire to adhere to the law and hospital policy – regulations that aim to limit the spread of infection, for example. Thus, equipment that might be contaminated is discarded — even if it’s not, or if it could be cleaned to address the concern. Likewise, when patient rooms are cleared, the supplies left in the room are just tossed, rather than being restocked. For people in the ICU who may have rooms littered with packages of gauze, tubing, needles, sterile saline and other supplies, that can add up very quickly.

In surgery, strict infection protocols also tend to facilitate waste as well. While the desire to keep surgical tools scrupulously sterile is well-founded — patients have better outcomes when surgeons use sterile equipment — some hospitals go a little overboard. Once something has been brought into the operating room, it may be discarded after a procedure, even if it wasn’t used. And that’s a major problem when expensive disposable surgical instruments are involved.

Historically, all of these materials went straight into the garbage, posing some environmental and health …read more

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The DLC Lives: “Third Way” Democrats Are Trying to Push the Party Rightward

The DLC never went away: Through well-funded think tanks like Third Way, it continues to push Democrats to the right.

The DLC never went away: Through well-funded think tanks like Third Way, it continues to push Democrats to the right. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

The Democratic Leadership Council has been dead for years, but not its pro-Wall Street, pro-corporate mission, which has lived on in groups like the Third Way. Now armed with millions of dollars, they are increasing their public profile and aggressively advancing the “New Democrat” agenda to push the party to the right. Can progressives stop them?

The DLC never went away: Through well-funded think tanks like Third Way, it continues to push Democrats to the right.The DLC never went away: Through well-funded think tanks like Third Way, it continues to push Democrats to the right. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

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Stringer Bell had a problem. On HBO’s show “The Wire,” the rather learned kingpin was concerned that the drugs his gang sold on the streets of West Baltimore were too weak, which jeopardized their control of the streets. So, in a memorable scene, Bell, who was taking economics courses at a community college, asked his instructor, “What are the options if you have an inferior product in an aggressive marketplace?” The instructor offered him some prescient advice, mentioning how WorldCom (now MCI Inc.) once faced a similar problem.

“The company was linked to one of the largest fraud cases in history,” he said. “So, they decided to change the name.”

Bell adopted the strategy. West Baltimore was soon flooded with the same inferior product, but …read more

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Trump's EPA Cuts: No One Will Protect Us

President Donald Trump signs an executive order aimed at rolling back one of former President Barack Obama's major environmental regulations to protect American waterways, in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, Feb. 28, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

President Donald Trump signs an executive order aimed at rolling back one of former President Barack Obama’s major environmental regulations to protect American waterways, in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, February 28, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

President Donald Trump’s deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency terrify me. They will gut the agency, removing protections for American families and our children.

As I travel from one polluted community to the next, women weep as they hold their children, and explain how chemicals in their air, water or land have made their families sick.

Local leaders describe how their city or town won’t help them, because it’s a company town, and no one will hold the polluter responsible. They go on to say their state agency isn’t much better. Their only recourse is the federal EPA.

The EPA was designed to provide a safety net for these communities. But it has been hard enough for EPA to answer demand for their services across the nation, and to stretch their existing budgets. Clearly, Trump’s administration intends to take away this safety net, and a means for checks and balances.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that living in a toxic environment, with little hope of getting out, is a family’s worst nightmare. In 1978, I lived with my two small children at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, NY, where 20,000 tons of toxic chemical wastes were buried.

My daughter had a rare blood disease, and my son suffered from many medical problems including with his liver, asthma and epilepsy. Our house was worthless, and our American dream taken away through no fault of our own. Fifty-six percent of our neighborhood children were born with birth defects.

Niagara Falls was a …read more

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Congress Is Missing in Action as Trump Escalates War in Syria Amid Russia Probe

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Donald Trump is escalating US military operations in Syria just as Russia begins fighting in the region as well. However, the Democrats’ recent efforts to paint Trump as Moscow’s puppet — while allowing the president to ramp up attacks abroad — may have unintended consequences.

President Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 24, 2017. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

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As a House committee held the first congressional hearing on the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Russia this week, Republicans loyal to Trump tried to shift the focus to recent leaks surrounding it, as well as efforts to gather intelligence on Trump’s transition team under the outgoing administration. Other conservatives are distancing themselves from Trump, perhaps in case FBI Director James Comey’s investigation bares fruit. Democrats, meanwhile, took advantage of a fresh opportunity to place Trump as close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the headlines as possible.

At the same time, in northern Syria, US warplanes and artillery units launched strikes against the Islamic State to cover for helicopters ferrying Syrian fighters and their US military advisors behind enemy lines. The operation has set the stage for a long and presumably bloody siege of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital. At least 33 people were killed when an airstrike by the US-lead coalition hit a school where civilians were hiding from the fighting, according to The Guardian. The number of US troops in Syria as grown from a couple hundred to at least …read more

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Paul Ryan as Punchline: The Impending Failure of the AHCA

House Speaker Paul Ryan discusses the proposed American Health Care Act at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 9, 2017. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)

House Speaker Paul Ryan discusses the proposed American Health Care Act at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 9, 2017. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)

Guy walks into a bar. Second guy ducks.

This is, far and away, the worst “Guy walks into a bar” joke in the history of the franchise. Makes “A million ducks…” and “The twelve-inch pianist…” seem Shakespearean by comparison. Somehow, though, it still manages to amuse on a gutter slapstick level; a dude getting racked in the noodle is never not funny, and his friend avoiding the same fate just makes it complete.

It’s even funnier when you see it in real life.

The story in brief: House Speaker Paul Ryan chose yesterday, the seventh anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act into law, to be the day when congressional Republicans, along with President Trump, finally fulfilled their long-running promise to repeal Obamacare. The American Health Care Act, brainchild of Speaker Ryan, was ready to take the stage and rescue us all.

There were some flies in the ointment, to be sure. The bill as it stood, according to CBO scoring, would immediately strip millions of their health insurance. It was a massive tax cut for rich people. It would obliterate Medicaid as we’ve known it. It would deliver a deep and profound injustice to children and old people of every stripe, and would further do a big number on the same rural poor people who elected Donald Trump in the first place. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows a galloping 17 percent approval for the AHCA, a number that is sure to dwindle once more people find out just how much rat meat is in the stew.

Speaker Ryan’s prescription for the pain? Speed. …read more

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16-Year-Old's Death After Coerced Meth Ingestion Underscores Violence of Immigration System

ICE has a long and sordid history of abusing migrants in detention. Under ICE's jurisdiction, migrants face sexual assault, torture and even death. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)

ICE has a long and sordid history of abusing migrants in detention. Under ICE’s jurisdiction, migrants face sexual assault, torture and even death. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)

ICE agents coerced 16-year-old Cruz Marcelino Velázquez Acevedo into drinking the amber-colored liquid he was carrying, which caused him to succumb to violent convulsions and die. Migrants frequently face torture and sexual assault under ICE jurisdiction — sometimes resulting in death — but only one out of 142 complaints has resulted in (less-than-adequate) disciplinary action against an agent.

ICE has a long and sordid history of abusing migrants in detention. Under ICE's jurisdiction, migrants face sexual assault, torture and even death. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times) ICE has a long and sordid history of abusing migrants in detention. Under ICE’s jurisdiction, migrants face sexual assault, torture and even death. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)

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In November of 2013, US Border patrol agents pulled aside 16-year-old Cruz Marcelino Velázquez Acevedo for questioning around a suspected illicit substance in his possession. He didn’t survive the exchange.

While in federal custody, Acevedo stated that the substance in question was apple juice. The agents, unconvinced, coerced the teen into drinking the liquid. Acevedo succumbed to violent convulsions and died two hours later. A test kit, readily available on the premises, would have confirmed the contents as liquid meth within three minutes.

Following a settlement reached this week by his family, Acevedo has been portrayed in the media as a …read more

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Losing Home

The Quinault have borne witness to the marked signs of climate change over the past century. In Taholah – which is home to some 825 people – these signs are becoming increasingly impossible to ignore. (Photo: Larry Workman)

As is true in many Native communities around the world, the Quinault have borne witness to the marked signs of climate change over the past century. In Taholah — which is home to some 825 people — these signs are becoming increasingly impossible to ignore.

Fawn Sharp grew up in Taholah village, a small community on the Quinault Reservation nestled between the mouth of the Quinault River and the Pacific Ocean. She spent her childhood summers surrounded by water, splashing in Lake Quinault on the eastern edge of the reservation, and hiking along the local beaches near the village, scouring the rocks for starfish and other treasures. In the mornings, she was often up before the sun, out fishing with her grandparents on the river.

The Quinault have borne witness to the marked signs of climate change over the past century. In Taholah – which is home to some 825 people – these signs are becoming increasingly impossible to ignore. (Photo: Larry Workman)

Decades after she left home for college, Sharp is back on the reservation, this time living near the lake, some 35 miles from her childhood home in Taholah. Now she goes by President Sharp, and leads both the Quinault Indian Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

Since returning, Sharp has faced the kinds of tough issues that might have seemed outlandish, or even inconceivable, during her childhood. She’s seen the tribe’s salmon runs in sharp decline. She’s observed the rapid retreat of nearby glaciers. And she’s watched her childhood home, Taholah, endure dangerous flooding during increasingly harsh storm surges.

Given the growing threat that climate change poses to the “lower village,” as tribal members refer to the lower portion of Taholah, paired with ongoing concerns about the village’s vulnerability to earthquakes …read more

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