Tag Archives | truth-out

In Unanimous Vote, House Says No Legal Right to Attack Iran

By Merula Furtado

In a little noticed but potentially monumental development, the House of Representatives voted unanimously for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 5515) that says no statute authorizes the use of military force against Iran.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), states, “It is the sense of Congress that the use of the Armed Forces against Iran is not authorized by this Act or any other Act.”

A bipartisan majority of the House adopted the National Defense Authorization Act on May 24, with a vote of 351-66. The bill now moves to the Senate.

If the Senate version ultimately includes the Ellison amendment as well, Congress would send a clear message to Donald Trump that he has no statutory authority to militarily attack Iran.

This becomes particularly significant in light of Trump’s May 8 withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. That withdrawal was followed by a long list of demands by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which could set the stage for a US attack on Iran.

Co-sponsors of the Ellison amendment include Reps. Barbara Lee (D-California), Ro Khanna (D-California), Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) and Walter Jones (R-North Carolina).

“The unanimous passage of this bipartisan amendment is a strong and timely counter to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran deal and its increasingly hostile rhetoric,” Ellison said in a press release. “This amendment sends a powerful message that the American people and Members of Congress do not want a war with Iran. Today, Congress acted to reclaim its authority over the use of military force.”

Likewise, Khanna stated, “The War Powers Act and Constitution is clear that our country’s military action must first always be authorized by Congress. A war with Iran would be unconstitutional and costly.”

McGovern concurred, stating, “Congress is sending a clear message …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Remembering Palestinian Medic Razan al-Najjar, Killed by the Israeli Defense Forces

By Samantha Borek

Witnesses say Israeli soldiers shot dead 21-year-old Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar as she ran toward the border fence to provide medical aid to a wounded protester. Since nonviolent protests began at the end of March, Israeli soldiers have killed at least 119 people, including 14 children. More than 13,000 have been wounded. “It was clear to everybody that she was a paramedic, that that was murder. I mean, that was a crime committed before cameras,” said Dr. Medhat Abbas, director of Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in the Gaza Strip. We also speak with Najjar’s cousin, Dalia al-Najjar, who says the response of the international community to the Gaza crisis has been “really disappointing,” and notes the US vetoed a draft UN resolution urging the protection of Palestinians on Friday, the same day Najjar was killed. “It’s a shameful side that the United States decided to take.”

Please check back later for full transcript.

The post Remembering Palestinian Medic Razan al-Najjar, Killed by the Israeli Defense Forces appeared first on Truthout.

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Meet Stacey Abrams, Democrat Who Could Become First African-American Woman Governor in US History

By Samantha Borek

We speak with Stacey Abrams, who made history in Georgia last month when she became the first African-American woman to win a major party’s nomination for governor in US history. The former state House Democratic leader defeated Stacey Evans, a former state representative who ran as a centrist. Abrams faces a tough race this November against her Republican opponent, who will be decided during a July 24 runoff election between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. If Abrams wins, she’ll become the first African-American governor in the Deep South since Reconstruction. “We can actually win elections without having to cater to these right-wing, harshly conservative policies that only serve to harm everyone,” says Abrams. We also discuss her new book, which offers advice to others inspired to run for office: “Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change.”

Please check back later for full transcript.

The post Meet Stacey Abrams, Democrat Who Could Become First African-American Woman Governor in US History appeared first on Truthout.

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The Air Force’s Strange Love for the New B-21 Bomber

By Samantha Borek

Did you know the US Air Force is working on a new stealth bomber? Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t, since the project is so secret that most members of Congress aren’t privy to the details. (Talk about stealthy!) Known as the B-21 Raider, after General Doolittle’s Raiders of World War II fame, it’s designed to carry thermonuclear weapons as well as conventional missiles and bombs. In conceptual drawings, it looks much like its predecessor, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, all wing and no fuselage, a shape that should help it to penetrate and survive the most hostile air defense systems on Earth for the purposes of a “global strike.” (Think: nuclear Armageddon.)

As the Air Force acquires those future B-21s, the B-2s will be retired along with the older B-1B bomber, although the venerable B-52 (of the Cold War era), much modified, will remain in service for the foreseeable future. At $550 million per plane (before the inevitable cost overruns even kick in), the Air Force plans to buy as many as 200 B-21s. That’s more than $100 billion in procurement costs alone, a boon for Northrop Grumman, the plane’s primary contractor.

If history is any judge, however, a boon for Northrop Grumman is likely to prove a bust for the American taxpayer. As a start, the United States has no real need for a new, stealthy, super-expensive, nuclear-capable, deep-penetrating strategic bomber for use against “peer” rivals China and Russia. But before tackling that issue, a little history is in order.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

A long time ago (1977, to be exact), in a country far, far away, President Jimmy Carter did a brave thing: he cancelled a major Pentagon weapons system just before it was due to start production. That was the B-1 bomber, a plane …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Facility Staff Call Police as Senator Attempts to Examine Conditions of Immigrant Detention Center

By Samantha Borek

The US’s inhumane immigration system has come under growing scrutiny in recent days after President Donald Trump introduced his new policy of separating migrant children from their families, and when a sitting US senator attempted on Sunday to examine the conditions of one immigrant detention center in Texas—where “hundreds” of children are reportedly being held—facility staff refused to allow him inside and called the police.

“The attorney general’s team and the Office of Refugee Settlement, they don’t want anyone to know what’s going on behind these doors,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore) said after arriving at the Brownsville, Texas facility, which is run by the Southwest Key Program (SKP), a “non-profit” government contractor.

Merkley didn’t simply arrive at the facility unannounced. As the Oregon senator explains at the outset of his video of the attempted visit, he contacted federal officials and SKP to request access to the detention center, which is a former Walmart with completely blacked-out windows.

After Merkley repeatedly asked officials at the facility to allow him to speak with a supervisor who could give him a tour, local police arrived and questioned the senator about his attempted entry. When a supervisor did finally emerge, he wouldn’t answer Merkley’s questions or provide any information.

Watch:

Merkley’s effort to tour the secretive detention center comes after newly released documents revealed “pervasive abuse” of immigrants at such facilities during the Obama administration—treatment that has continued under the Trump administration.

“Children should never be ripped from their families and held in secretive detention centers,” Merkley wrote on Twitter late Sunday.

The senator’s effort to shed light on the living conditions of migrant children detained inside a taxpayer-funded detention facility was applauded by immigrant rights advocates, who demanded an end to the Trump administration’s “cruel, inhumane, and disgraceful policy of separating children and babies from their parents.”

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Will Congress Use the Farm Bill to Undermine Organics?

By Samantha Borek

It remains to be seen if Congress will get its act together to pass a Farm Bill before year’s end. But here’s what we do know. If Congress succeeds in passing a 2018 Farm Bill, it will almost certainly be bad news for the organic industry.

We already know that the House version, H.R.2, includes potentially devastating attacks on organic and regenerative food and farming. Fortunately, the US House of Representatives voted down H.R. 2 last week. But we’re not out of the danger zone yet—the House is scheduled to vote on its bill again on June 22.

The Senate is about to drop its Farm Bill as early as June 6, according to Politico. We haven’t seen that bill yet. But we do know that the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee—Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)—aren’t great friends of organic. We also know that the Senate Farm Bill will be bipartisan—which means it’s sure to pass.

The Organic Trade Association, which should be committed to protecting organic standards from any sneak attacks in the Farm Bill, has indicated that it will stand with consumers. But we’re skeptical, given the group’s track record. 

In the meantime, we’re urging supporters of organic to ask their Senators to protect organic and regenerative food and farming.

House Farm Bill Contains Direct Attacks on Organic

H.R. 2, the House Farm Bill, would severely erode the power of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The NOSB is an independent standards-setting body which, under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, has the authority to determine which non-organic substances are allowed in organic.

If the House Farm Bill were to become law, the NOSB’s authority would be undermined in two significant ways:

1. The NOSB would be required to “convene a task force to consult …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Donald Trump Wants to Rule the World: The Good News He’s Terrible at It

By Samantha Borek

Last Wednesday I wrote a piece headlined “Trump’s contempt for the rule of law: It’s deeply troubling, and getting worse.” I laid out some examples of President Trump’s manipulation of the Justice Department and flouting of norms and rules. I noted that on a number of occasions he’s explicitly said that he is not subject to the rule of law, whether in letter or spirit.

For instance, Trump has repeatedly claimed that the president cannot have a conflict of interest and therefore cannot be held liable for corruption. He has said that a president cannot be accountable for passing classified information to whomever he chooses, because he has the power to declassify documents for any reason at all. And he told the New York Times, “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” explaining that as long as he felt the DOJ was being fair he wouldn’t exercise that power. He has since said many times that he is preparing to intervene; indeed, it’s been reported that Trump is still pressuring Jeff Sessions to be his “Roy Cohn” and take back control of the Russia investigation.

Over the weekend the New York Times reported that the president’s lawyers have made these claims officially in memos to special counsel Robert Mueller. The documents come right out and say it:

Indeed, the President not only has unfettered statutory and Constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, he also has Constitutional authority to direct the Justice Department to open or close an investigation, and, of course, the power to pardon any person before, during, or after an investigation and/or conviction. Put simply, the Constitution leaves no question that the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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As Glacier-Fed Rivers Disappear, One-Sixth of Global Population Is at Risk

By Merula Furtado

A recent University of Alberta-led project, the 2018 State of the Mountains Report, has sounded the alarm bell of how the rapid loss of glacial coverage in Canada’s mountains is causing rivers to disappear.

One of the examples cited in the report is how the Slims River (Ä’äy Chù) experienced a “Piracy Event” in southwestern Yukon. During the spring melt of 2016, the Slims River, one of the primary water sources of Kluane Lake (Lhù’ààn Mǟn), dried up after the Kaskawulsh Glacier receded so much that its dwindling meltwaters started to flow in a completely different direction. Near the end of that summer, Kluane Lake was a full meter lower than its previous record low level.

“This is one stark example of a very big drainage system that utterly and permanently reorganized itself in a single season,” University of Alberta mountain historian Zac Robinson told Phys.Org. “Kluane Lake is a massive lake that isn’t being fed any longer and is seeing its levels dropping. What does that do to the ecosystem and the communities on that lake that depend on that water?”

Given that more than one-sixth of the entire global population lives in basins of glacier-fed rivers and depends heavily upon them for water for drinking and irrigation, this report is in effect sounding a global alarm bell.

Change Like Nothing That Has Happened “in the Geological Past”

Mountain glaciers are vanishing so fast due to human-caused climate disruption that it isn’t just scientists in Canada who are sounding the alarm.

“The rate of change that we see in the moment, recorded most directly and visibly by mountain glaciers, is way, way, way faster than it was at the end of the ice age,” Joerg Schaefer of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory told Earth Institute’s State of the Planet. “What we …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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No Bubbles on the Horizon

By Samantha Borek

Ever since the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007–2008 that gave us the Great Recession, there has been a large doom and gloom crowd anxious to tell us another crash is on the way. Most insist this one will be even worse than the last one. They are wrong.

Both the housing bubble in the last decade and the stock bubble in the 1990s were easy to see. It was also easy to see that their collapse would throw the economy into a recession since both bubbles were driving the economy. We are in a very different place today.

The stock market is high. By any measure, price-to-earnings ratios are far above historic averages, but they are nowhere near as out of line as they were in the 1990s bubble.

The current value of the market is roughly 24 times after-tax corporate profits, based on the first quarter’s data. This compares to the historic average ratio of 15-to-1. But at the peak of the bubble in 2000, the ratio was over 30-to-1.

Furthermore, the higher than normal price-to-earnings ratio can very well be justified by unusually low real interest rates. The interest rate on the 10-year Treasury bond is flirting with 3.0 percent. With a 2.0 percent inflation rate, that translates into a real interest rate of just 1.0 percent.

By contrast, when the stock market was soaring in the late 1990s, the yield on 10-year bonds was generally over 5.0 percent. Given an inflation rate also near 2.0 percent, this translated into a real interest rate of 3.0 percent. That made bonds a much better alternative in the 1990s bubble than at present.

It is true that profits are unusually high as a share of national income. This reflects a big increase in the profit share in the weak labor market following the Great …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Benefit Change Could Raise Costs for Patients Getting Drug Copay Assistance

By Samantha Borek

Since Kristen Catton started taking the drug Gilenya two years ago, she’s had only one minor relapse of her multiple sclerosis, following a bout of the flu.

She can walk comfortably, see clearly and work part time as a nurse case manager at a hospital near her home in Columbus, Ohio. This is a big step forward; two drugs she previously tried failed to control her physical symptoms or prevent repeated flare-ups.

This year, Catton, 48, got a shock. Her health insurance plan changed the way it handles the payments that the drugmaker Novartis makes to help cover her prescription’s cost. Her copayment is roughly $3,800 a month, but Novartis helps reduce that out-of-pocket expense with payments to the health plan. The prescription costs about $90,000 a year.

Those Novartis payments no longer counted toward her family plan’s $8,800 annual pharmacy deductible. That meant once she hit the drugmaker’s payment cap for the copay assistance in April, she would have to pay the entire copayment herself until her pharmacy deductible was met.

Catton is one of a growing number of consumers taking expensive drugs who are discovering they are no longer insulated by copay assistance programs that help cover their costs. Through such programs, consumers typically owe nothing or have modest monthly copayments for pricey drugs because many drug manufacturers pay a patient’s portion of the cost to the health plan, which chips away at the consumer’s deductible and out-of-pocket maximum limits until the health plan starts paying the whole tab.

Under new “copay accumulator” programs, that no longer happens.

In these programs, the monthly copayments drug companies make don’t count toward patients’ plan deductibles or out-of-pocket maximums. Once patients hit the annual limit on a drugmaker’s copay assistance program, they’re on the hook for their entire monthly copayment until they reach their plan …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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