Archive | May 31st, 2020

Racism and the Empire’s Executioners?

“George Floyd and Officer Derek Chauvin Worked as Security Guards for Same Minneapolis Night Club”

By Philip A Farruggio

From a recent report by the Insider publication: “George Floyd and Officer Derek Chauvin actually worked for the same Minneapolis night club- Chauvin as a security guard for many years, and Floyd as a bouncer during 2019.” It begsthe question of just how well these two may have known each other, or worse, if Chauvin had some sort of ‘racially prejudiced’ ulterior motive for doing this heinous deed. Thereport also states:

‘This was not the first time Chauvin had been involved in a violent incident during his 19 years in the Minneapolis Police Department. He was involved in violent incidents before, including three police shootings. And he has been the subject of 10 complaints filed to the city’s Civilian Review Authority and the Office of Police Conduct….

Two years later, just after 2 o’clock one morning in 2008, Chauvin responded to a 911 domestic-assault call in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, the Pioneer Press reported.

Chauvin and his partner entered the home, confronting Ira Latrell Toles, whose partner had made the 911 call. Toles ran from the pair, but ‘they caught and tried to subdue him,’ a police statement said. The statement said Toles ‘grabbed at one of the officer’s guns, and Chauvin shot him in the torso.’ ” 

Is this not shades of the George Zimmerman case regarding his murder of Trayvon Martin?

More from the Insider piece:

“In 2011, Chauvin was involved in a third police shooting. He was among five officers to respond to reports of a shooting. Leroy Martinez, a 23-year-old Alaska Native, was spotted running from the scene, and the officers gave chase, local news reported. The police said Martinez brandished a pistol as he fled. Terry Nutter, one of the responding officers, shot Martinez. An eyewitness account, reported by the Star Tribune, challenged the police’s claim that Martinez was holding a pistol when he was shot.”

“‘He had no reason to shoot that little boy,’ Delora Iceman told the Star Tribune. She said Martinez had dropped the weapon and held his arms in the air before the police shot him.

During his nearly two decades with the Minneapolis Police Department, Chauvin has been the subject of several internal complaints… three separate reviews from the Civilian Review Authority found  Chauvin to have used ‘demeaning tone, and’ ‘derogatory language.’ No other details were available. He has also been the subject of seven reviews by the local Office of Police Conduct. Each review concludes: ‘Closed – No discipline.’ No other details were available.”

Derek Chauvin should never have been in the Minneapolis Police Department for as long as 19 years. When one reviews the above news piece, isn’t it pretty plain that this dude should never have been in any position of control over anyone! He, and his fellow thugs are right out of the Pinkerton or Baldwin Felts school of law enforcement. Go and get the 1987 film classic Matawan, written and directed by John Sayles, based on the 1920 Matawan, West Virginia coal miners’ strike. See how those who ‘Own the Manor’ use their paid ‘Thugs with badges’ to keep the rabble in line. Similar to how Officer Chauvin and Co. protected the pure white world outside of the inner city from men like George Floyd. Imagine those neighbors of Floyd who had to stand behind the Blue Wall of Chauvin’s three partners (in crime?) and listen to a dying man gasp for help. Amazing what power those four had over the community because ‘They are the Law!!’

One thinks that maybe our local police should realize that the overwhelming majority of us are all Working Stiffs the same as them. The color of the person shouldn’t mean squat! We all need to go and punch out the hours for our survival the same as those four cops. I remember how my friend’s older sister (foolish white woman) pontificated at a  Christmas party about the poor: “Let’s face it, most of them are either drug addicts or alcoholics”.

She failed to understand that, in most poor neighborhoods, the overwhelming majority of the residents have to get up early (sometimes earlier than folks from better neighborhoods) for shitty paying jobs, shit conditions with few or NO benefits. Yet, they do it. Yes, the study of Socialism teaches this writer that Capitalism as it exists today in Amerika has set up the deck their way. In poorer areas the liquor stores abound, along with Payday loans, food stores that overcharge and of course… the flow of illicit drugs goes unabated. The scene from Godfather 1 when the heads of five Mob families discuss the drug trade, one of the mobsters says “In my city we would keep the traffic in the dark areas for the colored people. They’re animals anyway so let them lose their souls.”

I have been on the soapbox for over 30 years saying that only four year college graduates with majors in either sociology or criminal justice should qualify to be police officers… period! Perhaps if we lived in a more equitable economic system, whereupon ALL who work for the owners get a bigger piece of the pie, the pay would be enough to attract new, more educated police officers. The higher one goes up on the ladder of intellect, I believe rational behavior can follow. The motto ‘Protect and Serve’ should resonate more than it does now. Too many who stand behind the Blue Wall keep the rest of us away from Truth. I remember speaking to my lawyer’s Criminal Defense partner. He had been an Assistant DA for years before jumping ship. “Here’s my experience”, he said,

“If they want to get someone real bad, they will plant a gun or plant drugs when they arrest. They also will, in more cases than not, LIE on the stand to help a fellow officer. I have seen it too many times.”

Who suffers from this ‘Perjury Mill’? Well, all those good officers who go by the book and treat everyone the same, regardless of color, creed, religion or sexual orientation. They need to speak up… loudly!

Perhaps it is time for all our governments, local, county, state or federal, to insist on a much higher standard for policing. Chauvin wouldn’t have his jackboot on Floyd’s vulnerable neck if he wasn’t a cop in the first place!

Posted in USA, Human Rights1 Comment

Drawing Battlelines: US Openly Targets China’s “Belt and Road”

By Tony Cartalucci

Judging by US foreign policy – China is a massive global threat – and by some accounts – the “top” threat. But a threat to what?

AFP would report in its article, “Trump nominee to lead intel community sees China as top threat,” that:

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the US intelligence community said Tuesday that he would focus on China as the country’s greatest threat, saying Beijing was determined to supplant the United States’ superpower position.

Were China doing this by using news agencies like AFP to lie to the public to justify invading Middle Eastern nations, killing tens of thousands of innocent people, installing client regimes worldwide, and using its growing power to coerce and control nations economically and politically when not outright militarily – US President Donald Trump’s “pick” – John Ratcliffe – might be justified in focusing on China and its “determination” to “supplant the United States’ superpower position.”

However, this is not what China is doing.

China Building Rather than Bombing 

China is – instead – using economic progress to rise upon the global stage. It makes things. It builds things. It creates infrastructure to bring these things to others around the globe who need or want them, and enables other nations to make, build, and send things to China.

One example is China’s One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR) also referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This includes a series of railways, highways, ports, and other infrastructure projects to help improve the logistical connections between nations, accelerating economic development.

Only in the US could the notion of building railways connecting people within and between nations seem like a dangerous idea.

By building such networks, people are better empowered to trade what they are making and what they seek to buy and sell. China, which possesses the largest high-speed railway network on Earth carrying 2 billion passengers a year, is extending this network beyond its borders – deep into Southeast Asia and even across Eurasia via Russia and beyond. Alongside it are a raft of other projects ranging from ports to power plants, and more.

The political and economic power China is gaining by expanding real economic activity both within its borders and beyond them, and both for China itself as well as for its trading partners – represents a global pivot away from America’s century-long unipolar global order and closer toward a now emerging multipolar world order.

The US with a population of over 300 million and some of the best industrial potential in the world could easily pivot with this sea change – but entrenched special interests refuse to do so. Paying into a genuinely pragmatic method of generating wealth and stability exposes Washington and Wall Street’s various rackets, making them no longer tenable. So instead, US special interests are labeling China’s One Belt, One Road initiative a global threat and China itself as one of America’s chief adversaries.

Fighting Fire with Fire or Pushing Rope Uphill? 

To combat this adversary – the US is not building bigger and better global networks to facilitate economic progress – but is instead marshalling the summation of its “soft power” to hinder and sabotage it. It has ringed China with a series of sociopolitical conflicts, cultivating opposition groups in various nations aimed at destabilizing them and spoiling them as constructive economic and infrastructure partners for Beijing.

The US is leveraging its still massive media monopolies to portray these political conflicts as otherwise inexplicable opposition to closer ties with China and against infrastructure projects jointly developed with China.

In some nations  – like Cambodia – this has all but failed with swift and definitive action taken by the Cambodian government against US proxies to clear them from Cambodia’s media, political, and public space. In nations like Thailand, the opposition has been left to linger – neutralized at the moment but ever threatening to overturn sociopolitical stability if given the opportunity.

Nations like Japan, South Korea, and even Australia – who are generally perceived as being staunch US allies – have even begun slowly but surely shifting their foreign policy to benefit from the economic rise of China.

Australia – for example – has even been recently threatened by the US after the state of Victoria signed a trade deal with China.

An ABC article titled, “US threatens Australia’s intelligence ties over Victoria’s ‘Belt and Road’ pact with China,” would report:

The US Secretary of State has said his nation could “simply disconnect” from Australia if Victoria’s trade deal with Beijing affects US telecommunications.

Mike Pompeo said while he was unaware of the detail of Victoria’s agreement, he warned it could impact the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership with Australia.

Of course, the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing partnership is an abusive combine of invasive surveillance used to enhance the power and profits of the special interests that created it – not to actually protect the people living in any of the “Five Eyes” partner nations.

While US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hints at possible security risks associated with doing business with China and its telecom giant Huawei – “Five Eyes” governments have regularly been exposed and confirmed to be partnering with Western tech giants to violate privacy and spy on innocent people.

It is just one example of how the US seeks to shape the world and bend nations into joining or doubling down on its abusive axis and steering them away from constructive partnerships.

Australia’s economic trade is mainly done within Asia – not with the West. As China continues to rise, common sense will compel Australia to continue building better and more constructive ties with Beijing and divesting from otherwise costly and unconstructive alliances with nations like the US built on military intervention, spying, and political subversion.

The US finds itself pushing the geopolitical rope of hegemony up hill – offering up unconvincing criticisms of China and its foreign policy while offering no viable alternative.

Delusion is the Worst Defense 

Op-eds like Foreign Policy’s “One Belt, One Road, One Big Mistake,” help illustrate the West’s thinking regarding China’s rise and its OBOR project.

The article claims:

This might not matter if BRI projects were driving favorable political outcomes. They aren’t. Prolonged exposure to the BRI process has driven opposition to Chinese investment and geopolitical influence across the region.

FP can make this claim because it entirely omits any mention of the vast sums of money and effort the US has spent to create this opposition. The example FP uses is the Maldives – never mentioning that the pro-Beijing government there was overturned by a convicted criminal literally hiding in Western Europe and fully supported by the US State Department in his bid to return to power.
Thus – this isn’t an example of OBOR failing to create a favorable political outcome for Beijing – it is an example of US soft power overturning these favorable political outcomes nonexistent American alternatives to OBOR are incapable of doing. How durable these US successes are is a matter of debate.

The article also claims:

Far from being a strategic masterstroke, the BRI is a sign of strategic dysfunction. There is no evidence that it has reshaped Asia’s geopolitical realities. The countries that have benefited most from it are those that already had strong geopolitical reasons for aligning themselves with Chinese power, such as Cambodia and Pakistan.

Here again – FP depends on omitting facts including the fact that many nations previously bent to US foreign policy are exiting out from under it via China’s One Belt, One Road.Thailand is a perfect example of this – having recently replaced much of its US military hardware with Chinese alternatives including tanks, armored personnel carriers, ships, and even submarines. Thailand is also in the process of building a joint high-speed railway with China that will connect it to China via Laos to the north and with Malaysia to the south.US Decries China’s High-Speed Rail in Laos. Connecting China’s Yunnan to South East AsiaIt’s not that the Western media doesn’t know this – they choose simply to ignore this reality and shield its readership from it – a bit of delusion in hopes its soft-power methods can continue gaining them victories and reversing China’s gains faster than China can make and cement them.As to what the US is doing to counter OBOR, Foreign Policy and many others populating the West’s echo chambers feel criticism – however baseless – as well as brushing off the sea change OBOR is slowly creating – is good enough.

Of course it is not. In an international order where might makes right, the US finds itself with diminishing might and a growing inability to convince the world it is “right.” Luckily for the US and much of Western Europe strong-armed into following Washington’s cues, the rest of the world still seeks to constructively work with the West and inevitably will do so.

It will just be a matter of weathering the damage being done by the current circle of special interests still dominating Western foreign policy, waiting for them to wane and disappear from positions of power and authority and be replaced by leadership willing and able to move the West into a constructive role amid a multipolar world.

Either way, OBOR will connect the rest of the world together leaving the West just beyond its terminus. It will be up to Western leaders – particularly in Washington – whether or not they choose to benefit from the wealth left just beyond their doorstep or not.

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Trump Versus Twitter

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Sawing off the branch you sit on can hardly be the best of policies.  But that all depends on the nature of the branch.  US President Donald Trump has huffed himself into another small historical moment, going on the offensive against social media companies using the very language his faux progressive opponents use against them.  All seem to be in agreement on one point: the Silicon Valley giants have become too powerful, runaway monsters in the stakes of high influence.  But sharp divergences and attitudes exist on how such companies are to be controlled, let alone disciplined.

The view on how best to chastise such companies come from opposite ends of the information spectrum. For the enraged and the offended, these internet giants should be punished for distributing content created by users who might, for instance, be seen to be glorifying violence or giving truck to the unsavoury.  Their view seems to be that humanity cannot be trusted with viewing matter that might, on the off chance, prove dangerously galvanic. 

This is the view taken, for instance, by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. 

“One thing is pretty clear to me,” he scoldingly told his audience at last year’s Never Is Now Summit hosted by the Anti-Defamation League.  “All this hate and violence [in the world] is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.”   

For Baron Cohen and travellers of like mind, the problem in all of this is the protection provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  The provision confers immunity on internet companies for the use-generated content they host.

For Trump, such companies should be punished for misusing their immunity from prosecution for actually banning or flagging undesirable content or opinions.  In short, there should be no limits on the quality or nature of user-content used or posted.  For the first Twitter President in history, it was all too bruising to be “flagged” for content posted on Twitter taking issue with the response to Monday’s lethal arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  On Friday, Trump tweeted the line, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”. It was a phrase Miami’s police chief Walter Headley used in 1967 in response to, as reported at the time, a “crackdown on … slum hoodlums”.  He spoke with reassurance for the head-kicking enthusiasts.  “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality.” 

Trump spruced up that version – slightly.  “Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot.  I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means.”Trump’s Twitter Blocking Violates First Amendment, Court Rules

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means….252K7:20 PM – May 29, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy117K people are talking about this

Twitter has shown interest in the US president of late. Flagging and hiding Tweets, it also added a fact-check link to one of Trump’s messages.  All this was simply too much, a lingering, cyber stain.  The Executive Order that followed was cranky and a bit confused, taking issue with the wielding of power by internet companies “over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.”  Accordingly, “Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike.”  In removing or restricting access to content, such companies were “engaged in editorial conduct” and would, for that reason, have she shield of immunity removed.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

Twitter is doing nothing about all of the lies & propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party. They have targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States. Section 230 should be revoked by Congress. Until then, it will be regulated!272K12:10 PM – May 29, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy129K people are talking about this

The order is not likely to have much effect. The legal cognoscenti see it has having little bearing, a wasteful act of sinister flatulence.  Former Justice Department inspector general Michael Bromwich considered it “a hoot.  Unlawful and unenforceable.”  According to Joshua Geltzer, executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, it would be hard to make a case that Twitter’s labels on Trump’s tweets fell outside the immunity of section 230.  Nor could Trump sue for defamation, given that Trump, not Twitter, added the element of falsity to the affair.   

Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sees the birth of the order as “unconstitutional because it was issued in retaliation for Twitter’s fact-checking of President Trump’s tweets.”  The concern for Jaffer is that the order entails the possibility of intimidation and investigation of internet companies. “There may well be regulation, and legislation worth considering in this sphere, but whatever else this order may be, it is not a good faith effort to protect speech online.”

What the latest moves have done is precipitate something of a conflict within the usually amoral social media sphere.  The titans seem to be in disagreement on how to approach the demagogue in the White House.  Do we let him bark and bellow without inhibition, or should some health warning label be attached? Mark Zuckerberg makes Facebook’s position disingenuously clear: such companies should not be arbiters of truth.  (Unfortunately for the CEO, he expressed that view on a news outlet that often prefers the fictional narrative to the sturdy truthfulness.)  “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.” 

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sees it differently

“Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.” 

 Neither CEO should be taken too seriously. Twitter will make its policies as it sees fit (consider, for instance, its righteous civic integrity policy); ditto Facebook.  Neither – and here Zuckerberg is right – should be arbiters, but they are.  They have shaped, directed, cajoled, mocked and massaged the gullible, the idiotic and the deluded.  And for all the fuss being caused by this Order, Facebook it is not considered a serious target.  As Ian Bogost and Alex Madrigal insist, the Trump campaign effectively ceded“control to Facebook’ ad-buying machinery” in 2016, as it is doing now.  Internet boffin Zeynep Tufekci can only agree: the relationship between the president and the Facebook CEO “is so smooth that Trump said Zuckerberg congratulated the president for being ‘No.1 on Facebook’ at a private dinner with him.” Time to break bread again.

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Black Alliance for Peace Calls on United Nations to Address Human Rights Crisis in the United States

Extrajudicial murders of African/Black people borders on genocide

By Black Alliance for Peace

The extrajudicial murders of African/Black people, such as Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, by agents of the U.S. government and armed civilians have sparked urban rebellions in cities across the United States. Such murderous acts cannot be understood outside of the context of the U.S. state’s ongoing assault on the human rights of African/Black people.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweet—“…when the looting starts, the shooting starts…”—demanding lethal violence requires the United Nations to intervene.

Trump’s threat comes as the U.S. state has tragically failed during the COVID-19 pandemic to recognize and protect the human right to health of poor and working-class people, including Africans and undocumented migrants.

African/Black people comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet represent one-third of COVID-19 related deaths. In some areas, the death rate has been as high as 70 percent.

Yet, the Trump administration, the U.S. Congress and state governments have responded by driving African/Black workers—who occupy the lowest rungs of the U.S. labor force—back to work with little or no protection. An inadequate for-profit healthcare system that discriminates against the poor ensures disproportionate death rates for African/Black people will continue.

Police authorities have been documented for abusing their power while enforcing COVID-19 mitigation efforts such as social distancing, which has been impossible for overcrowded African/Black communities and households to maintain.

Despite various United Nations bodies—such as the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Human Rights Committee (HRC), the Universal Periodic Review Process (UPR), and various special human-rights rapporteurs and special representatives—calling several times on the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations to protect the human rights of African/Black people, what remains is a precarious situation that borders on genocide.

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Turkish Proxies Once Again Turned Afrin City Into Battle Zone

By South Front

On May 28, an intense fighting erupted between Turkish-backed militant groups in the Turkish-occupied city of Afrin. The clashes started after Hamza Division militants shot and killed a child and an owner of a shop that had refused to loan goods to them. The killed persons appeared to be affiliated with Jaish al-Islam. In response, fighters of the group attacked Hamza Division positions in the city center forcing them to flee Afrin. 3 Hamza Division members, a Jaish al-Islam member and 3 civilians were killed in the clashes. At least 6 civilians were also injured.

The situation de-escalated by the end of the day after the Hamza Division released a statement promising to launch investigating into the incident and hold the fighters involved in the attack on the shop accountable. Early on May 29, Hamza Division fighters reportedly started returning to the Afrin city center.

Looting, street firefights and extortion racket are an ordinary part of the daily life in the Turkish-controlled part of northern Syria. On May 25, two units of the Murad Division clashed with each other in al-Bab and south of the town, near the Abu Zindin crossing with the government-held area. At least one militant and several civilians were injured in the incident that was caused by the struggle for the smuggling route among local commanders.Video: Syrian Soldiers Killed in Turkish Strikes in Idlib. Kurdish Rebels Attack Turkish Proxies in Afrin

Video Player00:0003:20

Turkish-backed militant groups do not care about possible civilian casualties as a result of their criminal activity. The only difference of the Afrin case is that the civilian killed by the Hamza Division appeared to be affiliated with a rival militant group.

A one more security problem for Turkish-led forces is regular attacks by Kurdish rebels. At least nine militants were killed and two others were injured in IED explosions, sniper attacks and ambushed carried out by the Kurdish-led Afrin Liberation Forces in the Afrin region on May 17, May 18, May 19, May 23 and May 25.

On May 28, the Turkish Army and the Russian Military Police held a 13th joint patrol along the M4 highway in southern Idlib. This time the patrol reached the eastern entrance of Kafr Shalaya, which is located a half way from the government-controlled town of Saraqib and the city of Jisr al-Shughur, which is in the hands of al-Qaeda-linked militants.

The expanded length of the joint patrols is a positive signal showing some progress in the Russian-Turkish cooperation to create a security zone along the M4 highway. However, the presence of radicals near Jisr al-Shughur and the recent attack on a Turkish military patrol there demonstrate that the full implementation of the de-escalation deal is still far away.

The Syrian Army and pro-government locals blocked a US military convoy near the town of Tell Tamr and forced it to retreat back to the al-Hasakah countryside on May 27. Over the past months, US forces have been fully squeezed from the territory west of Tell Tamr and now government forces are working to limit their movement even further. In response, the US-led coalition is trying to implement a similar approach towards the Russian Military Police near al-Hasakah.

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Racism in US: The African-American Dystopia

By Germán Gorraiz López

The totalitarian drift suffered by the United States during the mandate of George W. Bush caused that in the name of the holy-holy security of the State, in practice, the principle of inviolability (habeas corpus) of people was annulled, de facto establishing the principle of “presumption of guilt” instead of the original “presumption of innocence”, which would have remained an indelible stigma in the US security forces.

This would be reflected in the arrogance, brutality and racial contempt that police interventions exude in the great cities of the United States, constituent elements of the so-called “negative perfection”, a term used by the novelist Martín Amis to designate “the obscene justification of use of extreme, massive and premeditated cruelty by a supposed ideal state ”.

However, the rise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the explosion of urban violence in the city of Minneapolis after the brutal death by asphyxiation of a defenseless George Floyd in a new out-of-control performance with clear racist overtones. law enforcement, could cause metropolitan areas with high rates of African-American populations (New York, New Orleans, Washington, St-Louis, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Chicago) to erupt into violent street riots where they intermingle social demands with those of racial segregation, forgetting the teachings of Martin Luther King: “Violence creates more social problems than it solves.”

Donald Trump, the supremacists and the return of the “White Power”

According to an NBC poll, 54% of the white population would be “angry with the system”, which would have led white voters to support politically incorrect positions and refractory to the dictates of Donald Trump’s traditional republican establishment, symbolized in support of outraged whites over 45 to Trump and of neo-Nazi and white supremacist parties that continue to control the “deep America” spheres of power. The firm support for Trump’s candidacy by David Duke, ex-KKK leader and the subsequent appointments of Sebastian Gorka, (a member of the Hungarian far-right organization Vitézi Rand) as a counterterrorism adviser and Stephen Bannon, of populist ideology and far-right as Head of Strategy symbolized the arrival of white supremacists to the White House with the unequivocal objective of establishing “White Power” in a society in which demographic evolution will cause the white population to be a minority in the 2,043 scenario. Thus, according to the US Census Bureau, by 2043 whites will cease to be the majority of the American population and will be displaced by the sum of the Hispanic population that would increase from 53.3 million today to 128.8 million in 2060 and African-American, which would go from the current 41.2 million to the 61.8 million forecast by the projections.Video: Deterioration of the Rights of African Americans during Obama’s Presidency. “Servant of the Ruling White Elite”

African American dystopia

A dystopia would be “a negative utopia where reality takes place in terms antagonistic to those of an ideal society” and are located in closed or claustrophobic environments whose paradigm would be the city of Detroit, a dystopian scenario of real (non-fictional) nature and the paradigm of greatest mass exodus of population suffered by a modern city in the last 70 years. This exodus was motivated by the conjunction of economic reasons (the widespread corruption of the municipal authorities and the fact that the high taxes for living within the metropolitan area were drastically reduced in the suburbs) and racial ones. Thus, Detroit would have gone from having in the metropolitan area 1.8 million inhabitants in 1960 (90% white) to 700,000 in 2012 (84% African-American), a centrifugal migratory movement known colloquially as “white fligt” ( white flight) since the majority of the population that emigrated to the suburbs was white and middle and upper class, leaving the population of color confined to the east of the city in an area ironically called “Paradise Valley”. .

The X-ray of the pre-VID African-American population would outline a dystopian scenario, where 40% of the African-American population would live below the poverty line, with stratospheric unemployment rates above 17%, a figure that would triple as regards the population. young black woman (51%), with the consequent side effects of marginality, shadow economy and increased crime rates, favored by the lacerating lack of investment in public services and the existence of thousands of vacant lots and abandoned homes that should be destroyed by the City Council. In addition, the drastic collection of taxes forces to further cut social assistance programs, raise taxes and privatize most public services due to the accumulated deficit and the level of the bonds issued since they cannot print money to finance their deficits such as The nation does it, a situation that can be extrapolated to many other African-American cities.

The validity of Rev. Wright’s ideas

Reverend Wright in a 2001 sermon at the United Church of Christ parish in Chicago expressed the need for a collective metanoia of American society “that transforms imperial military wars into internal political wars against racism and the injustices of class ”, for which he proposed a fundamental redistribution of wealth through the reallocation of the public budget. Citing the “gift from the George W. Bush Administration of $ 1.3 trillion in tax exemptions for the wealthy,” he retorted with a proposal for public funding of universal health care and rebuilding the education system to put it at the service of the poor. .

Likewise, in a conference delivered at Howard University (Washington) in 2006, he stated: “This country was founded and is run according to a racist principle (…) We believe in white superiority and black inferiority (…) more than in God himself, “according to an excerpt published by The Wall Street Journal. Likewise, ex-President Obama, spiritual son of Reverend Wright and debtor to the title of his book “The Audacity of Hope,” in his book “My Father’s Dreams” talks about the vital attitude of the African American population, marked by the generational stigma of “a racial segregation that has characterized the American future” according to his words, an unhealed wound that will inevitably flare up again during the 2020 Presidential campaign.

Reissue of the March on Washington?

The persistence of police violence against the African American population and the practical impunity of the police, combined with the media visibility of the white supremacists who would count on “the fraternal understanding” of Donald Trump, could swing the once monolithic attitude of the Black fraternities to stay out of violent protests by confirming the certainty of the words of the visionary Martin Luther King, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: “We have learned to fly like birds, to swim like fish, but we have not learned the simple the art of living as brothers ”) Thus, we could attend the media gathering of another black pacifist leader and a new great peaceful march on Washington (Martin Luther King, 1963), a subsequent reissue of the violent racial riots of the summer of 1963 not being ruled out. , leaving in passing the phrase of Luther King “I have a dream” (I have a dream), as an unreachable utopia.

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Fundamentalist Pandemics

What evangelicals could learn from The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam

by: Juan Cole

In the U.S., a variety of evangelical religious leaders have failed the test of reasoned public policy in outrageous ways. (Photo: CC)

In the U.S., a variety of evangelical religious leaders have failed the test of reasoned public policy in outrageous ways. (Photo: CC)

This spring, the novel coronavirus pandemic has raised the issue of the relationship between the blindest kind of religious faith and rational skepticism—this time in two countries that think of themselves as polar opposites and enemies: Supreme Leader Ali Khameini’s Iran and Donald Trump’s America.

On the U.S. side of things, New Orleans pastor Tony Spell, for instance, has twice been arrested for holding church services without a hint of social distancing, despite a ban on such gatherings. His second arrest was for preaching while wearing an ankle monitor and despite the Covid-19 death of at least one of his church members.

The publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin’s famed Origin of the Species, arguing as it did for natural selection (which many American evangelicals still reject), might be considered the origin point for the modern conflict between religious beliefs and science, a struggle that has shaped our culture in powerful ways. Unexpectedly, given Iran’s reputation for religious obscurantism, the science-minded in the nineteenth and twentieth century often took heart from a collection of Persian poems, the Rubáiyát, or “quatrains,” attributed to the medieval Iranian astronomer Omar Khayyam, who died in 1131.

Edward FitzGerald’s loose translation of those poems, also published in 1859, put Khayyam on the map as a medieval Muslim free-thinker and became a century-and-a-half-long sensation in the midst of heated debates about the relationship between science and faith in the West. Avowed atheist Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney at the 1925 “monkey trial” of a Tennessee educator who broke state law by teaching evolution, was typical in his love of the Rubáiyát. He often quoted it in his closing arguments, observing that for Khayyam the “mysticisms of philosophy and religion alike were hollow and bare.”

To be fair, some religious leaders, including Pope Francis and Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, have followed the most up-to-date science, as Covid-19 spread globally, by supporting social-distancing measures to deal with the virus. When he still went by the name of Jorge Mario Bergoglio and lived in Buenos Aires, the Pope earned a high school chemical technician’s diploma and actually knows something about science. Indeed, the Catholic Church in Brazil has impressively upheld the World Health Organization’s guidelines for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, defying the secular government of far right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro, that country’s Donald Trump. Brazil’s president has notoriously ignored his nation’s public-health crisis, dismissed the coronavirus as a “little flu,” and tried to exempt churches from state government mandates that they close. The archbishop of the hard-hit city of Manaus in the Amazon region has, in fact, publicly complained that Brazilians are not taking the virus seriously enough as it runs rampant in the country. Church authorities worry about the strain government inaction is putting on Catholic hospitals and clinics, as well as the devastation the disease is wreaking in the region.

Here, we witness not a dispute between religion and science but between varieties of religion. Pope Francis’s Catholicism remains open to science, whereas Bolsonaro, although born a Catholic, became an evangelical and, in 2016, was even baptized as a pastor in the Jordan River. He now plays to the 22% of Brazilians who have adopted conservative Protestantism, as well as to Catholics who are substantially more conservative than the current pope. While some U.S. evangelicals are open to science, a Pew Charitable Trust poll found that they, too, are far more likely than the non-religious to reject the very idea of evolution, not to speak of the findings of climate science (action on which Pope Francis has supported in a big way).

Death in the Bible Belt

In the U.S., a variety of evangelical religious leaders have failed the test of reasoned public policy in outrageous ways. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, railing at “tyrannical government,” refused to close his mega-church in Florida until the local police arrested him in March. He even insisted that church members in those services of 500 or more true believers should continue to shake hands with one another because “we’re raising up revivalists, not pansies.”

As he saw it, his River Tampa Bay Church was the “safest place” around because it was the site of “salvation.” Only in early April did he finally move his services online and it probably wasn’t to protect the health of his congregation either. His insurance company had cancelled on him after his arrest and his continued defiance of local regulations.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis muddied the waters further in early April by finally issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order that exempted churches as “essential services.” Then, after only a month, he abruptly reopened the state anyway. DeSantis, who had run a Facebook group dominated by racist comments and had risen on Donald Trump’s coattails, has a sizeable evangelical constituency and, in their actions, he and Pastor Howard-Browne have hardly been alone.

It tells you all you need to know that, by early May, more than 30 evangelical pastors had died of Covid-19 across the Bible Belt.

Two Epicenters of the Pandemic

In the Muslim equivalent of the Bible Belt, the clerical leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, stopped shaking hands and limited visits to his office in early February, but he let mass commemorations of the 41st anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic go forward unimpeded. Then, on February 24th, he also allowed national parliamentary elections to proceed on hopes of entrenching yet more of his hardline fundamentalist supporters—the equivalent of America’s evangelicals—in Iran’s legislature. Meanwhile, its other religious leaders continued to resist strong Covid-19 mitigation measures until late March, even as the country was besieged by the virus. Deputy Minister of Health Iraj Harirchi caught the spirit of the moment by rejecting social-distancing measures in February while downplaying the seriousness of the outbreak in his country, only to contract Covid-19 himself and die of it.

The virus initially exploded in the holy city of Qom, said to have been settled in the eighth century by descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s filled with a myriad of religious seminaries and has a famed shrine to one of those descendants, Fatima Masoumeh. In late February, even after government officials began to urge that the shrine be closed, its clerical custodians continued to call for pilgrims to visit it. Those pilgrims typically touch the brass latticework around Fatima Masoumeh’s tomb and sometimes kiss it, a classic method for passing on the disease. Its custodians (like those American evangelical pastors) continued to believe that the holiness of the shrine would protect the pilgrims. They may also have been concerned about their loss of income if pilgrims from all over the world stopped showing up.

Despite having a theocratic government in which clerics wield disproportionate power, Iran also has a significant and powerful scientific and engineering establishment that looks at the world differently, even if some of them are also devout Shiite Muslims. In the end, as the virus gripped the country and deaths spiked, the scientists briefly won and the government of President Hassan Rouhani instituted some social-distancing measures for the public, including canceling Friday prayers and closing shrines in March, though—as in Florida—those measures did not last long.

In this way, as the U.S. emerged as the global epicenter of the pandemic, so Iran emerged as its Middle Eastern one. Call it an irony of curious affinity. Superstition was only part of the problem. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed the Trump administration’s sanctions and financial blockade of the country for the government’s weak response, since the Iranians had difficulty even paying for much-needed imported medical equipment like ventilators. Indeed, the U.S. government has also had Iran kicked off global banking exchanges and threatened third-party sanctions against any companies doing business with it.

President Trump, however, denied that the U.S. had blockaded medical imports to that country, a statement that was technically true, but false in any other sense. The full range of U.S. sanctions had indeed erected a formidable barrier to Iran’s importation of medical equipment, despite attempts by the European Union (which opposes Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran) to allow companies to sell medical supplies to Tehran.

Still, as with Trump’s policies in the U.S. (including essentially ignoring the virus for months), Iranian government policy must be held significantly responsible for the failure to stem the coronavirus tide, which by early May had, according to official figures, resulted in more than 100,000 cases and some 7,000 deaths (numbers which will, in the end, undoubtedly prove significant undercounts).

A Rubáiyát World

Whether in America or Iran, fundamentalist religion (or, in the U.S. case, a Trumpian and Republican urge to curry favor with it) often made for dismally bad public policy during the first wave of Covid-19. Among other things, it encouraged people, whether in religious institutions in both countries or in American anti-shutdown protests, to engage in reckless behavior that endangered not just themselves but others. Ironically, the conflict in each country between defiant pastors or mullahs and scientists on this issue should bring to mind the culture wars of the early twentieth century and the place of the Iranian poetry of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam in what was then largely a Western debate.

That makes those poems worthy of reconsideration in this perilous moment of ours. As I wrote in the introduction to my new translation of the Rubáiyát:

“The message of the poems… is that life has no obvious meaning and is heartbreakingly short. Death is near and we might not live to exhale the breath we just took in. The afterlife is a fairy tale for children… The only way to get past this existential unfairness is to enjoy life, to love someone, and to get intimate with good wine. On the other hand, there is no reason to be mean-spirited to other people.”

Some of the appeal of this poetry to past millions came from the dim view it took of then (as now) robust religious obscurantism. The irreverent Mark Twain once marveled, “No poem had given me so much pleasure before… It is the only poem that I have ever carried about with me; it has not been from under my hand for 28 years.” Thomas Hardy, the British novelist and champion of Darwin, wove its themes into some of his best-known fiction. Robert Frost wrote his famous (and famously bleak) poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Night” with Khayyam’s quatrains in mind. Beat poet Jack Kerouac modeled Sal Paradise, the unconventional protagonist of his novel On the Road, on his idea of what Khayyam might have been like.

Although compilers have always attributed those poems to that great astronomer and mathematician of the Seljuk era, it’s clear that they were actually written by later Iranian figures who used Khayyam as a “frame author,” perhaps for fear of reaction to the religious skepticism deeply embedded in the poetry (in the same way that the Thousand and One Nights tales composed in Cairo, Aleppo, and Baghdad over centuries were all attributed to Scheherazade). The bulk of those verses first appeared at the time of the Mongol invasion of Iran in the 1200s, a bloody moment that threw the region into turmoil and paralysis just as Covid-19 has brought our world to an abrupt and chaotic halt.

As if the war’s urban destruction and piles of skulls weren’t enough, historians have argued that the Mongols, who opened up trade routes from Asia into the Middle East, also inadvertently facilitated the westward spread of the Yersina pestis bacillus that would cause the bubonic plague, or the Black Death, a pandemic that would wipe out nearly half of China’s population and a third of Europe’s.

A fifteenth-century scribe in the picturesque Iranian city of Shiraz would, in fact, create the first anthology of quatrains entitled The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam, many composed during Mongol rule and the subsequent pandemic. The dangers of what we would now call religious fundamentalism, as opposed to an enlightened spirituality, were trumpeted throughout those poems:

In monasteries, temples, and retreats
they fear hellfire and look for paradise.
But those who know the mysteries of God
don’t let those seeds be planted in their hearts

While some turn to theology for comfort during a disaster, those quatrains urged instead that all of us be aggressively here and now, trying to wring every last pleasure out of our worldly life before it abruptly vanishes:

A bottle of Shiraz and the lips of a lover, on the edge of a meadow —
are like cash in hand for me—and for you, credit toward paradise.
They’ve wagered that some go to heaven, and some to hell.
But whoever went to hell? And whoever came back from paradise?

The poetry ridicules some religious beliefs, using the fantasies of astrology as a proxy target for the fatalism of orthodox religion. The authors may have felt safer attacking horoscopes than directly taking on Iran’s powerful clergy. Astronomers know that the heavenly bodies, far from dictating the fate of others, revolve in orbits that make their future position easy to predict and so bear little relationship to the lives of complex and unpredictable human beings (just as, for instance, you could never have predicted that American evangelicals would opt to back a profane, womanizing, distinctly of-this-world orange-faced presidential candidate in 2016 and thereafter):

Don’t blame the stars for virtues or for faults,
or for the joy and grief decreed by fate!
For science holds the planets all to be
A thousand times more helpless than are we.

Wars and pandemics choose winners and losers and—as we’re learning all too grimly in the world of 2020—the wealthy are generally so much better positioned to protect themselves from catastrophe than the poor. To its eternal credit, the Rubáiyát (unlike both the Trump administration and the Iranian religious leadership) took the side of the latter, pointing out that religious fatalism and superstitions like astrology are inherently supportive of a rotten status quo in which the poor are the first to be sacrificed, whether to pandemics or anything else:

Signs of the zodiac: You give something to every jackass.
You hand them fancy baths, millworks, and canals —
while noble souls must gamble, in hopes of winning their nightly bread.
Who would give a fart for such a constellation?

In our own perilous times, right-wing fundamentalist governments like those in Brazil and the United States, as well as religious fundamentalist ones as in Iran, have made the coronavirus outbreak far more virulent and dangerous by encouraging religious gatherings at a time when the pandemic’s curve could only be flattened by social distancing. Their willingness to blithely set aside reason and science out of a fatalistic and misguided faith in a supernatural providence that overrules natural law (or, in Donald Trump’s case, a fatalistic and misguided faith in his own ability to overrule natural laws, not to speak of providence) has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths around the world. Think of it as, in spirit, a fundamentalist version of genocide.

The pecuniary motives of some of this obscurantism are clear, as many churches and mosques depend on contributions from congregants at services for the livelihood of imams and pastors. Their willingness to prey on the gullibility of their followers in a bid to keep up their income stream should be considered the height of hypocrisy and speaks to the importance of people never surrendering their capacity for independent, critical reasoning.

Though you might not have noticed it on Donald Trump’s and Ali Khameini’s planet, religion seems to be in the process of collapsing, at least in the industrialized world. A third of the French say that they have no religion at all and just 45% consider themselves Catholic (with perhaps only half of those being relatively committed to the faith), while only 5% attend church regularly. A majority of young people in 12 European countries claim that they now have no religion, pointing to a secular future for much of the continent. Even in peculiarly religious America, self-identification as Christian has plunged to 65% of the population, down 12% in the past decade, while 26% of the population now disavows having a religion at all.

In post-pandemic Iran, don’t be surprised if similar feelings spread, given how the religious leadership functionally encouraged the devastation of Covid-19. In this way, despite military threats, economic sanctions, and everything else, Donald Trump’s America and Ali Khameini’s Iran truly have something in common. In the U.S., where it’s easier to measure what’s happening, evangelicals, more than a fifth of the population when George W. Bush was first elected president in 2000, are 16% of it two decades later.

Given the unpredictable nature of our world (as the emergence of Covid-19 has made all too clear), nothing, secularization included, is a one-way street. Religion is perfectly capable of experiencing revivals. Still, there is no surer way to tip the balance toward an Omar Khayyam-style skepticism than for prominent religious leaders to guide their faithful, and all those in contact with them, into a new wave of the pandemic.

Posted in USA, LiteratureComments Off on Fundamentalist Pandemics

The Privileged and Powerful in the Pandemic

Those in power must stop viewing the pandemic as an obstacle to personal ambition.

by: Robert Reich

Musk’s thin-skinned, petulant narcissism bears an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump, who last week tweeted, "California should let Tesla and @elonmusk open the plant, NOW."(Photo: flickr/cc)

Musk’s thin-skinned, petulant narcissism bears an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump, who last week tweeted, “California should let Tesla and @elonmusk open the plant, NOW.”(Photo: flickr/cc)

As America reopens for business, you might expect Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America, and his Amazon corporation, one of the most profitable corporations in America, to set the corporate standard for how to protect the health of American workers.

Think again.  

Amazon’s warehouses have become Covid-19 hot spots, yet Amazon has repeatedly fired workers who sound the alarm – including, just recently, a warehouse worker in Minnesota who spoke out against unsafe conditions, and, earlier in the pandemic, a worker who led a walkout Amazon’s huge JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island after several employees tested positive for Covid-19.

A few weeks ago, Amazon fired two white-collar employees after they criticized the company’s treatment of warehouse workers. I talked with one of them, Maren Costa, at a virtual rally. (The event didn’t come off quite as planned. After thousands of employees had RSVPed, Amazon deleted all invitations and emails regarding the event, according to organizers.)

“Why is Amazon so scared of workers talking with each other?” Costa wondered. “We’re all in this together. No company should punish their employees for showing concern for one another, especially during a pandemic.”

At Amazon’s AVP1 fulfillment center near Hazleton, Pennsylvania – under federal investigation because of an early spike in cases – workers say Amazon stopped sharing information about Covid-19 cases, so they started their own unofficial tally, which at last count was 64 and rising.

“Plain truth: No one cares about us,” one of them told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Another pointed to lack of enforcement of health and safety regulations. “Believe me – we’ve complained and complained and complained,” the worker said.

Only recently did Amazon start offering two weeks’ paid sick leave to workers afflicted with the virus, but some sick workers say they’ve had trouble collecting their pay despite the new policy.

The company now says anyone who doesn’t return to work will be terminated, and it’s about to eliminate an extra $2 per hour hazard pay it had given warehouse workers.

Why has Bezos and set the bar so low for the rest of corporate America? It can’t be the cost. Amazon can afford the highest safety standards in the world. Last quarter, its revenue surged 26 percent and its profits soared to $75.5 billion. Since March, Jeff Bezos’ net worth has jumped $24 billion.

So, what is it? Perhaps the arrogance and indifference that comes with extraordinary power.

Consider billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who last week reopened his Tesla plant despite county public-health orders to keep it shut. After Musk threatened to sue the county and move the factory and jobs to another state, officials finally caved.

Tesla promptly notified workers that “Once you are called back, you will no longer be on furlough so if you choose not to work, it may impact your unemployment benefits.”

So Tesla workers are now being forced to choose between their livelihoods or, possibly, their lives. Musk says his factory is safe, but a worker who returned to the production line told the New York Times that little has changed, and “it’s hard to avoid coming within six feet of others.”

Why is Musk so intent on risking lives? It can’t be the money. Musk is rolling in it. Tesla’s stock closed at $790.96 a share last Wednesday, which put the company’s value at about $146 billion (by contrast, GM, which produces far more cars, is valued at less than $31 billion).

It’s that, like Jeff Bezos, Musk wants to impose his will on the world. The pandemic is an obstacle, so it must be ignored.

In January, Musk said Covid-19 was nothing more than common cold. In March, he tweeted the “coronavirus panic is dumb.” By late April he was calling shelter-in-place orders “fascist,” and asserting that health officials were “breaking people’s freedoms.”

If all this reminds you of someone who now occupies the Oval Office, that’s no coincidence. Musk’s thin-skinned, petulant narcissism bears an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump, who last week tweeted, “California should let Tesla and @elonmusk open the plant, NOW.”

I once oversaw the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and I can attest that Trump’s OSHA is doing squat about worker safety in this pandemic. Trump is fine with this. All he cares about is being reelected.

Trump despises Bezos, presumably because Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which has been critical of Trump. But it’s easy to see in Bezos the same public-be-damned bullying that emanates from the White House.

Enough! Those in power must stop viewing the pandemic as an obstacle to personal ambition. Over 300,000 people around the world have lost their lives in just four months, including more than 90,000 Americans. Bezos, Musk, Trump, and all others in positions to help contain this disaster are morally bound to do so, their own ambitions be damned.

Posted in USA, HealthComments Off on The Privileged and Powerful in the Pandemic

‘This Is Dangerous. Ignore Him’: Doctors Warn Against Following Trump’s Lead as President Claims He’s Taking Hydroxychloroquine

“There is no evidence of benefit and there is evidence of harm. Trump is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands. Let’s not add to that number.”

by: Jake Johnson,

President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable in the State Dining Room of the White House May 18, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Doug Mills—Pool/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable in the State Dining Room of the White House May 18, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Doug Mills—Pool/Getty Images)

After President Donald Trump claimed Monday that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine on a daily basis for more than a week in an effort to prevent Covid-19—even though the anti-malaria medicine has not been proven effective for that purpose—medical professionals condemned Trump for continuing to recklessly tout the drug and warned the public against following the president’s lead.

“In fact, there are serious hazards.”
—Dr. Steven Nissen, Cleveland Clinic

“If everything else we know about President Trump hasn’t proven to you that he does not understand medicine or healthcare, and certainly doesn’t have your best interests at heart, this statement and the fact that he’s taking this drug should be everything you need to know,” Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency care physician and executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, said in a video posted to Twitter following Trump’s remarks.

“The FDA recently issued a warning that this should not be used outside of hospital settings because of the risk of death. We know that patients with lupus depend on hydroxychloroquine, and when President Trump was touting it in March, they ran into shortages,” Davidson continued. “We in the healthcare field need to come out in one voice against the use of this drug and against the advice of this president, knowing that he is going to put more people in harm’s way.”

Trump said during a press briefing Monday that “you’d be surprised at how many people are taking” hydroxychloroquine, adding that he has been taking the drug every day for a week and a half as a preventative measure.

“I happen to be taking it,” Trump said after claiming without evidence that many frontline workers are also taking the drug. “I’m not gonna get hurt by it.”

Asked to provide evidence that the drug is effective in preventing coronavirus infection, Trump said: “Here we go, are you ready? Here’s my evidence—I get a lot of positive calls about it.”

“I get a lot of tremendously positive news on the hydroxy,” Trump continued, “and, you know, I say, hey… what do you have to lose?”

Following Trump’s comments, which reportedly “surprised many of his aides,” the White House released a memo from the president’s physician Dr. Sean Conley, who wrote that “after numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”

The memo, dated May 18, does not explicitly say that Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine.

Sam Stein@samstein

This doctor letter the White House just released doesn’t actual include the doctor saying he prescribed Trump hydroxychloroquine

View image on Twitter

As Vox‘s  Zack Beauchamp wrote, “the president is either doing something irresponsible or lying irresponsibly.”

“On the one hand, if Trump—a notorious liar—is telling the truth about taking the drug, it’s certainly newsworthy that the president is taking a dangerous medication for no good reason,” wrote Beauchamp. “On the other hand, Trump may be trying to goad the media into getting bogged down in an issue that’s less important than the actual outbreak and Trump’s failed response to it. At the press conference, he told reporters, ‘I was just waiting for your eyes to light up when I said this, when I announced this,’ indicating he’s perfectly aware that he’s starting a controversy.”

“Either way,” Beauchamp added, “it’s terrible behavior that reflects poorly on the man in charge of our country—just one more example of the wild unfitness for office that’s been on display throughout the pandemic.”

The president’s comment certainly sparked alarm across the media, including from his favorite television network, Fox News.

Fox anchor Neil Cavuto warned in a segment following Trump’s comments that “if you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus… it will kill you.”

“I cannot stress enough,” Cavuto said. “This will kill you.”

Dr. Steven Nissen, the chief academic officer of the Miller Family Heart, Vascular, and Thoracic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, told the New York Times in an interview that he is concerned Trump’s comments will lead the public to “believe that taking this drug to prevent Covid-19 infection is without hazards.”

“In fact, there are serious hazards,” said Nissen.

Posted in USA, HealthComments Off on ‘This Is Dangerous. Ignore Him’: Doctors Warn Against Following Trump’s Lead as President Claims He’s Taking Hydroxychloroquine

‘Written for His Base and to Deflect Blame’: Trump Sends Letter Threatening Permanent Freeze of US Funding to WHO

“This is a phenomenally damning letter—of the president’s own response. All of those early dates? Late December and January? Were known to U.S. officials and relayed to Trump. Who did nothing.”

by: Jake Johnson,

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attending a press briefing on Covid-19 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. (Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Monday sent a four-page letter to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, threatening to permanently freeze U.S. funding to the United Nations agency in the midst of a global pandemic that has made international cooperation as crucial as ever.

Trump’s letter, which he posted to Twitter Monday night, repeats the president’s accusations that WHO is deferential to China and says that if the organization “does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization.”

The president also alleged that WHO ignored early warnings about the spread of the coronavirus and made “grossly inaccurate or misleading” claims about the virus. Observers noted that much of Trump’s critique of WHO’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic applies to the White House’s handling of the crisis, which has been condemned as fatally slow and inadequate.

“This is a phenomenally damning letter—of the president’s own response,” tweeted HuffPost White House correspondent S.V. Dáte. “All of those early dates? Late December and January? Were known to U.S. officials and relayed to Trump. Who did nothing.”

Trump wrote that WHO “consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from The Lancet.”

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a U.K.-based medical journal, refuted the president’s claim in a tweet early Tuesday.

“Dear President Trump—You cite The Lancet in your attack on WHO. Please let me correct the record,” Horton wrote. “The Lancet did not publish any report in early December, 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan. The first reports we published were from Chinese scientists on Jan 24, 2020.”

Trump’s letter comes just over a month after he announced his decision to temporarily halt U.S. funding to WHO, a move Horton condemned at the time as an “appalling betrayal of global solidarity” that “every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against.”

Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, tweeted that the U.S. president’s letter shows that he “doesn’t understand what WHO can and cannot do.”

“It is a normative, technical agency which needs to keep member states at the table,” Sridhar said. “If he thinks they need more power then member states should agree and delegate it more. This letter is written for his base and to deflect blame.”

John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies and former economist at the WHO, wrote in an op-ed for Foreign Policy In Focus earlier this month that while “WHO is far from perfect,” the organization “is playing a key role in poorer countries, and its importance will only grow as the pandemic spreads in these nations.”

“The story line from Reagan to Trump is the same: undermining global public health to serve narrow interests,” Cavanagh wrote. “For Reagan, it was to help a few well-connected corporate backers. For Trump, it may be to help a single billionaire in particular—himself. Only now, we’re in the middle of a pandemic that’s only just begun to devastate the vulnerable regions that need the WHO the most. The United States shouldn’t be cutting support now. We should be increasing it.”

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