Rights & Justice
War & Peace
A man pretends to drink bleach during a protest against COVID restrictions in 2020.

Making Clorox Great Again: Sounds Interesting, Right?

Happy Disinfectant Injection Day to those survivors who four years ago ignored the "stratospherically insane" advice, even for him, of a demented buffoon babbling hokum in the face of a pandemic he couldn't spin his way out of - which, thanks to his ineptness, needlessly killed over 200,000 Americans. "I see the disinfectant, it knocks it out in a minute," he raved to a stricken Dr. Birx. "And is there a way we can do something like that?" Yeah, sure, let's elect him again.

Tuesday's fourth Bleachiversary, aka Stick a Light Up Your Ass Day or Bleach Injection Day, marks what's been deemed "the most surreal moment ever witnessed (in) a presidential press conference." For weeks, Trump had been giving "stream-of-consciousness" updates on a pandemic he insisted would soon vanish, but wasn't. Earlier that day, the COVID task force had met, as usual without him, to discuss new findings on the effects of sunlight and humidity on the virus; Trump was briefed, didn't get it, went out and winged it 'cause he loved free TV airtime and what's a few hundred thousand deaths anyway? "So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light. And I think you said you're going to test it?" he prattled to Birx cringing behind him. "And then I see the disinfectant, it knocks it out in a minute...And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? So you’re going to use medical doctors, right? But it sounds interesting to me. So we’ll see..."

And we did. Because, alas, dumb people listened. Calls to Poison Control Centers after ingesting bleach, Lysol and other (deadly) household cleaners soared - this was even before he started touting hydroxychloroquine - and the day's deranged press bleaching went on to live in infamy. Ultimately, thanks to Trump's cumulative health policy cluster-fucks, America saw the highest number of COVID deaths in the world - over a million - of which, experts say, roughly 234,000 could have been prevented. In the moment, video shows a grim, mute Dr. Birx curled in horror - some swear you could see her soul leave her body, but it would have been far more useful, as the madman burbled, if she'd shrieked WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK?!? "I wanted it to be 'The Twilight Zone' and all go away," she later said in an interview. "I could just see everything unraveling." From then on, said a Dem official, "We knew without any doubt the government was in way over its head, and its ability to respond effectively (was) not going to be anywhere close to meeting the moment."

And so it went. And here we are. And now he is not just "gaspingly stupid" but, experts say, "in the advanced stages of dementia," from word salad - “space capsicule" and "Yoonayded Nations" - to 4th grade vocabulary - big, strong, great - to memory issues - Pelosi/ Haley - to a growing inability to control his behavior: "All of this will only get worse. The Trump you see today is the best Trump you're ever going to see." Last week, he described the Battle of Gettysburg - "What an unbelievable battle that was. Gettysburg. Wow" - as either a mash-up of the Civil War and Pirates of the Caribbean or a horse giving birth. This week outside court, accordion hands flying, he gabbled about his hush money crimes to reporters: "It’s a case as to book-keeping, which is a very minor thing in terms of the law in terms of all the violent crime that's going on outside…"This is a case where you pay a lawyer, he's a lawyer and they call it a legal expense. That's the exact term they use. We never even deducted it as a tax deduction..."

In court, meanwhile, he slumps, glowers, nods off as his hapless lawyers - admonished by the judge with, "I have to tell you right now, you're losing all credibility with the court" - struggle to explain how he's innocent of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal in an act of election interference. Between sessions, he whines: "I'm here in a courtroom, sitting here...Sitting up as straight as I can all day long. It’s a very unfair situation.” So does Fox' Jesse Watters, who evidently doesn't realize that before sitting up straight in court Trump spent his time riding a golf cart like a beached whale: "They're draining his brain and his body...You're taking a man who's usually (in) action and you're gonna sit him in a chair in freezing temperatures. He needs sunlight and he needs activity. It's really cruel and unusual punishment to make a man do that." But the Super Man of his digital trading cards is "extraordinarily resilient," a co-host reminds him. So yeah, sure, four more years, even from a prison cell.

"There are several stages of grief after someone dies," a wise patriot notes, and often even before they do. "Like realizing your own dad has lung cancer, realizing he is not well and is not going to be well down the road...The fact is that Trump has a cancer, a cancer of his soul that affects us all...It is time to let ‘dad’ go...People need to let Donald Trump go. Let him fade into the shadows where he came from." For a reminder of why that is now vital, see Sarah Cooper four years ago recreate his ignominious moment of moronic lunacy, one of far, far too many, in How To Medical. Biden is already on it. “Remember when he told us, literally, inject bleach?" he asked last week. “Bless me, Father.” So many crimes, so few consequences, so much at stake. "Don't inject bleach," Biden urged on the anniversary of the day Trump bungled to make Clorox great again. "And don’t vote for the guy who told you to inject bleach." Sigh. This is where we are. Are we better off than we were four years ago? In a feckin' relative universe, yes.

A volunteer removes plastic bottles and other trash polluting Ruaka River in Nairobi, Kenya

Ahead of Plastics Treaty Summit, Studies Make Case for Stopping Pollution at the Source

As worldwide government officials, civil society groups, and activists prepare to head to Ottawa, Canada for the fourth session of global plastics treaty negotiations, climate advocates urged attendees to keep in mind the new findings of scientists who showed Thursday that plastic production—not waste—is the main driver of the synthetic substances' planet-heating emissions.

The federally funded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California released a paper showing that the greenhouse gas emissions of the plastics industry are equivalent to those of about 600 coal-fired power plants and are four times higher than those of the airline sector.

Lobbyists for the plastics industry, along with countries that are home to the world's biggest fossil fuel polluters, have pushed for a plastics treaty that centers waste management and a "circular economy" in which waste plastic is used indefinitely to produce new synthetic products.

But the Lawrence Berkeley scientists found that 75% of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by plastics are released before the plastic compounds are even created by the polymerization process.

"Plastics' impact on the climate starts with extraction," said the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) in a policy brief on the lab's findings. "To fully capture, measure, evaluate, and address the impacts of plastic pollution, assessment, and regulatory controls must consider the complete lifecycle, beginning with extraction."

According to Lawrence Berkeley's research, if plastic production remains at its current level, it could burn through roughly one-fifth the planet's remaining carbon budget, pushing the Earth closer to planetary heating that exceeds 1.5°C.

"To avoid breaching the 1.5°C limit set by the Paris [climate] agreement," said GAIA, "primary plastic production must decrease by at least 12% to 17% per year, starting in 2024."

To achieve that goal, said the Center for Financial Accountability on Thursday, fossil fuel-producing countries must stop treating the global plastics treaty "as a waste management treaty."

"While global leaders are trying to negotiate a solution to the plastic crisis, the petrochemical industry is investing billions of dollars in making the problem rapidly worse," said GAIA science and policy director Neil Tangri, a senior fellow at University of California, Berkeley. "We need a global agreement to stop this cancerous growth, bring down plastic production, and usher in a world with less plastic and less pollution."

At the third session of the the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) last year, 143 plastics industry lobbyists registered to attend, prompting advocates to call for their exclusion from future summits.

On Sunday, ahead of the meetings set to take place from April 23-29, the Break Free From Plastic movement is planning to march through Ottawa, to demand "strong conflict of interest policies that protect the treaty negotiations and its implementation from the vested interests of industries that are profiting" from the growing plastic pollution crisis.

The campaigners will also demand a negotiation process that respects the rights of Indigenous people, a treaty that supports "non-toxic reuse systems" and rejects a "circular economy" model, and limiting and reducing plastic production a "non-negotiable requirement to end plastic pollution."

Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, a co-author of GAIA's policy brief and a research fellow at Siliman University in the Philippines, said the climate impacts that have already hit his country illustrate the need for a strong global plastics treaty.

"The Philippines is on the frontlines of both climate change and plastic pollution," said Emmanuel. "Heatwaves, powerful typhoons, and flooding are getting worse, and the petrochemical industry has displaced our traditional systems with mountains of plastic that poison our communities."

"Whether the treaty includes plastic production cuts is not just a policy debate," he added. "It's a matter of survival."

Sen. Bernie Sanders

'You Are an Inspiration,' Sanders Tells LA Hotel Workers Fighting for Just Contracts

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders joined hospitality workers in downtown Los Angeles on Friday as they picketed outside one of the dozens of hotels that have yet to reach a contract deal with UNITE HERE Local 11, whose membership is demanding better pay, benefits, and job protections in one of the nation's most expensive cities.

"You are an inspiration, because of your courage, to millions of working people throughout this country," Sanders (I-Vt.) told the crowd of workers gathered outside Hotel Figueroa. "You are working hard, you are what keeps these hotels going. You deserve decent wages, you deserve decent benefits, you deserve decent healthcare, you deserve decent schedules, you deserve decent pensions."

Since last summer, thousands of workers at more than 50 hotels in southern California have taken part in rolling strikes that have yielded record contract agreements—including significant wage increases and other victories—at 34 hotels.

Many of the hotels that have yet to meet workers' demands, including Hotel Figueroa, are owned by private equity firms.

Sanders called out one of those firms—the investment behemoth Blackstone—by name on Friday, noting that the company CEO's annual compensation is far larger than the combined wage increases that striking hotel workers are demanding.

"Working people are sick and tired of getting ripped off while corporate America enjoys record-breaking profits," said Sanders. "We are living in a country today where, for the last 50 years, the wages of working people, in terms of inflation, have gone nowhere—actually declined."

"You are part of a growing movement in this country of workers joining unions, of organized unions standing up and demanding decent contracts. That's what's going on all over America," the senator continued. "The message of today is we are sick and tired of the greed of corporate America... This union deserves a decent contract."

(Photo: Bryan Giardinelli/Hello@BreatheNewWinds.com)

Friday's rally at Hotel Figueroa, which is owned by the private equity firm BentallGreenOak, came weeks after the hotel's former food and beverage operator shut down operations as its nonunion employees attempted to organize. More than 100 workers lost their jobs as a result.

Maria Ibarra, a cook who was laid off, filed a class-action lawsuit earlier this week alleging that Hotel Figueroa's ownership "violated a city ordinance meant to protect workers' jobs when there are changes in management by failing to retain them when the new operator took over."

"We service workers are not disposable," said Ibarra. "We're not something to be tossed aside when we're no longer convenient. I am filing this lawsuit to make sure our rights are respected."

The hotel workers' strike actions over the past eight months have been described asthe largest of their kind in U.S. history, and they've persisted even in the face of physical violence. In January, an unknown assailant used an apparent air rifle to shoot workers with metal ball bearings, leading some workers to wear bulletproof vests and helmets on the picket lines.

"My co-workers and I have been fighting for a just contract for months," Noelia Gonzalez, a room attendant at Hotel Figueroa, said during Friday's rally. "On many occasions during our pickets, we've been attacked. I'm very frustrated that my coworkers experienced violence while fighting for their rights and their benefits. I'm frustrated that the company left us vulnerable to violent attack."

"The hotel and company would not exist without our hard work and effort," she added. "That's why we deserve what we're fighting for."

"What we're doing here in this street and streets across southern California... is worth more than all the private equity money in the world."

Ada Briceño, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, said Friday that the "corporate greed" on display in the hotel sector "isn't just a threat to workers—it's harming our democracy."

"The same way the ultrawealthy concentrate their money to buy hotels, they also concentrate their money to influence our political system," said Briceño. "But I'm here to tell you that all the collective action, what we're doing here in this street and streets across southern California and hotel workers standing up is worth more than all the private equity money in the world."

In an interview with Common Dreams ahead of Friday's rally, Sanders said the hotel employees' tireless push for just contracts underscores that workers are increasingly "standing up to corporate greed and are prepared to fight." Last year, the number of U.S. workers involved in major work stoppages jumped 280%, a surge fueled by nurses, actors, autoworkers, and others.

"It's really quite extraordinary. And if you and I were chatting 10 years ago, I don't think we would've anticipated this," said Sanders. "The absurdity of so few having so much and so many having so little and workers having to struggle is I think bringing forth a real strong reaction about the working class of this country."

a boy eats popcorn while watching tv

Sanders, Booker, and Welch Unveil Ban on Junk Food Ads Targeting Kids

A trio of U.S. senators on Friday introduced what's being billed as first-of-its-kind legislation sponsors say will "take on the greed of the food and beverage industry and address the growing diabetes and obesity epidemics" with a federal ban on junk food ads targeting children.

The Childhood Diabetes Reduction Act—introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.)—would also require warning labels "on sugar-sweetened foods and beverages; foods and beverages containing non-sugar sweeteners; ultra-processed foods; and foods high in nutrients of concern, such as added sugar, saturated fat, or sodium."

"Let's be clear: The twin crises of type 2 diabetes and obesity in America are being fueled by the food and beverage industry that, for decades, has been making massive profits by enticing children to consume unhealthy products purposely designed to be overeaten," Sanders—who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee—said in a statement. "We cannot continue to allow large corporations in the food and beverage industry to put their profits over the health and wellbeing of our children."

"Nearly 30 years ago, Congress had the courage to take on the tobacco industry, whose products killed more than 400,000 Americans every year," Sanders added. "Now is the time for Congress to act with the same sense of urgency to combat these diabetes and obesity epidemics. That means banning junk food ads targeted to kids and putting strong warning labels on food and beverages with unacceptably high levels of sugar, salt, and saturated fat."

Booker said that "the future of our nation depends on a continued investment in the health and wellbeing of our children," adding that "more and more of our children are developing diabetes and obesity primarily because a handful of corporate food giants push addictive, ultra-processed foods to drive up their profits."

"By banning junk food advertising to children, implementing front-of-package warning labels, and funding research on the dangers of ultra-processed foods, we can rein in the predatory behavior of big food companies and ensure a healthier future for generations to come," he added.

As the senators noted:

Today, more than 35 million Americans are struggling with type 2 diabetes—90% of whom are overweight or obese. These crises go hand-in-hand and children are severely impacted. Today, 1 out of 5 five kids are living with obesity. A serious illness unto itself, diabetes is also a contributing factor to heart disease, stroke, amputations, blindness, and kidney failure. Unless the U.S. dramatically changes course, these numbers will continue to grow exponentially.

The impact on the economy is enormous: Last year, the total cost of diabetes exceeded $400 billion, approximately 10% of overall U.S. healthcare expenditures.

Meanwhile, the U.S. food and beverage industry spends about $14 billion annually on marketing unhealthy products, with $2 billion of that spent on advertising these products to children.

"Our food environment has become dominated by ultra-processed foods that have more in common with a cigarette than a fruit or vegetable," said Ashley Gearhardt, director of the Food and Addiction Science & Treatment Lab at the University of Michigan. "Many ultra-processed foods are hyperpalatable and trigger the core signs of addiction, like intense cravings and a loss of control over intake."

"The American public is not adequately warned about the risks associated with these products and children are a key marketing demographic for ultra-processed foods with unhealthy nutrient profiles," Gearhardt added. "The Childhood Diabetes Reduction Act is a courageous step towards promoting the physical and mental health of American children."

FTC Chair Lina Khan

'Seismic Win for Workers': FTC Bans Noncompete Clauses

U.S. workers' rights advocates and groups celebrated on Tuesday after the Federal Trade Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to approve a ban on most noncompete clauses, which Democratic FTC Chair Lina Khansaid "keep wages low, suppress new ideas, and rob the American economy of dynamism."

"The FTC's final rule to ban noncompetes will ensure Americans have the freedom to pursue a new job, start a new business, or bring a new idea to market," Khan added, pointing to the commission's estimates that the policy could mean another $524 for the average worker, over 8,500 new startups, and 17,000 to 29,000 more patents each year.

As Economic Policy Institute (EPI) president Heidi Shierholz explained, "Noncompete agreements are employment provisions that ban workers at one company from working for, or starting, a competing business within a certain period of time after leaving a job."

"These agreements are ubiquitous," she noted, applauding the ban. "EPI research finds that more than 1 out of every 4 private-sector workers—including low-wage workers—are required to enter noncompete agreements as a condition of employment."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has suggested it plans to file a lawsuit that, as The American Prospectdetailed, "could more broadly threaten the rulemaking authority the FTC cited when proposing to ban noncompetes."

Already, the tax services and software provider Ryan has filed a legal challenge in federal court in Texas, arguing that the FTC is unconstitutionally structured.

Still, the Democratic commissioners' vote was heralded as a "seismic win for workers." Echoing Khan's critiques of such noncompetes, Public Citizen executive vice president Lisa Gilbert declared that such clauses "inflict devastating harms on tens of millions of workers across the economy."

"The pervasive use of noncompete clauses limits worker mobility, drives down wages, keeps Americans from pursuing entrepreneurial dreams and creating new businesses, causes more concentrated markets, and keeps workers stuck in unsafe or hostile workplaces," she said. "Noncompete clauses are both an unfair method of competition and aggressively harmful to regular people. The FTC was right to tackle this issue and to finalize this strong rule."

Morgan Harper, director of policy and advocacy at the American Economic Liberties Project, praised the FTC for "listening to the comments of thousands of entrepreneurs and workers of all income levels across industries" and finalizing a rule that "is a clear-cut win."

Demand Progress' Emily Peterson-Cassin similarly commended the commission "for taking a strong stance against this egregious use of corporate power, thereby empowering workers to switch jobs and launch new ventures, and unlocking billions of dollars in worker earnings."

While such agreements are common across various industries, Teófilo Reyes, chief of staff at the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, said that "many restaurant workers have been stuck at their job, earning as low as $2.13 per hour, because of the noncompete clause that they agreed to have in their contract."

"They didn't know that it would affect their wages and livelihood," Reyes stressed. "Most workers cannot negotiate their way out of a noncompete clause because noncompetes are buried in the fine print of employment contracts. A full third of noncompete clauses are presented after a worker has accepted a job."

Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) executive director Mike Pierce pointed out that the FTC on Tuesday "recognized the harmful role debt plays in the workplace, including the growing use of training repayment agreement provisions, or TRAPs, and took action to outlaw TRAPs and all other employer-driven debt that serve the same functions as noncompete agreements."

Sandeep Vaheesan, legal director at Open Markets Institute, highlighted that the addition came after his group, SBPC, and others submitted comments on the "significant gap" in the commission's initial January 2023 proposal, and also welcomed that "the final rule prohibits both conventional noncompete clauses and newfangled versions like TRAPs."

Jonathan Harris, a Loyola Marymount University law professor and SBPC senior fellow, said that "by also banning functional noncompetes, the rule stays one step ahead of employers who use 'stay-or-pay' contracts as workarounds to existing restrictions on traditional noncompetes. The FTC has decided to try to avoid a game of whack-a-mole with employers and their creative attorneys, which worker advocates will applaud."

Among those applauding was Jean Ross, president of National Nurses United, who said that "the new FTC rule will limit the ability of employers to use debt to lock nurses into unsafe jobs and will protect their role as patient advocates."

Angela Huffman, president of Farm Action, also cheered the effort to stop corporations from holding employees "hostage," saying that "this rule is a critical step for protecting our nation's workers and making labor markets fairer and more competitive."

Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of men killed by Israeli settlers in the West Bank

West Bank Pogrom 'Underscores Urgent Need to Dismantle Apartheid': Amnesty

Amnesty International said Monday that the ongoing surge in deadly violence by Israeli settlers and soldiers in the West Bank "underscores [the] urgent need to dismantle apartheid" in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

For more than a week now, Israeli settlers have been attacking West Bank Palestinians in towns and villages including Al-Mughayir, Duma, Deir Dibwan, Beitin, and Aqraba, killing at least four people including a child; wounding dozens of others; and destroying homes, vehicles, and other property.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops have either stood and watched or participated in the settler attacks, which the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and others are calling a "pogrom."

Amnesty said the "alarming spike in violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians across the occupied West Bank in recent days highlights the urgent need to dismantle illegal settlements, end Israel's occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories, and its longstanding system of apartheid.

"The appalling spike in settler violence against Palestinians in recent days is part of a decadeslong state-backed campaign to dispossess, displace, and oppress Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, under Israel's system of apartheid," Amnesty Middle East and North Africa regional director Heba Morayef said. "Israeli forces have a track record of enabling settler violence and it is outrageous that once again Israeli forces stood by and in some cases took part in these brutal attacks."

"Establishing Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories flagrantly violates international law and constitutes a war crime," Morayef added. "Violence is integral to the establishment and expansion of these settlements and to sustaining apartheid. It's time for the world to recognize this and pressure Israeli authorities to abide by international law by immediately halting settlement expansion and removing all existing settlements."

The latest wave of settler violence was sparked by the disappearance of Binyamin Achimair, a 14-year-old Israeli from the illegal settler outpost of Mal'achei Hashalom who went missing on April 12 while herding sheep near the village of Al-Mughayir east of Ramallah. As Israelis searched for Achimair, settlers began attacking Al-Mughayir's residents and property.

Achimair's body was found the following day. Israeli officials said he was killed in a "terrorist attack." However, no Palestinian resistance group has claimed responsibility for the incident. A 21-year-old Palestinian man was arrested Monday in alleged connection with the boy's death.

Late Friday, IDF troops and armored vehicles surrounded the Nur Shams refugee camp east of Tulkarem and besieged the community of more than 6,000 Palestinians during a 50-hour raid in which residents were shot, homes were destroyed, and scores of people were arrested.

By Saturday, IDF soldiers had killed 14 people in the camp, including at least one child. More than 40 other Palestinians were wounded.

"I saw one of my relatives, Jihad Zandiq, put his hands in the air to the soldiers but then they shot him anyway from point-blank range and killed him. Half of his skull exploded," eyewitness Mahmoud Qazmouz toldMiddle East Eye on Sunday.

Palestinian officials said Israeli troops attacked first responders attempting to rescue victims, including a volunteer paramedic who was shot in the leg.

Meanwhile, a funeral was held Sunday for Mohammed Awad Allah Musa, a 50-year-old Palestinian Red Crescent Society volunteer paramedic who was shot dead Saturday by Israeli settler-colonists while trying to reach Palestinians wounded by rampaging settlers in the town of Sa'wiyah south of Nablus.

The Nur Shams raid and ongoing settler attacks came as the U.S. State Department on Friday announced new sanctions targeting far-right Israeli settler leaders including Ben Zion Gopstein, the founder and head of the Jewish supremacist group Lehava.

The Biden administration—which backs Israel with billions of dollars in military aid and diplomatic support—is also reportedly considering imposing sanctions on the IDF's Netzah Yehuda battalion over war crimes committed in the West Bank before the current Israeli war on Gaza, including the January 2022 death of Omar Assad, a 78-year-old Palestinian American man.

Responding to the prospect of the first-ever U.S. sanctions on his country's military, far-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that "I will fight it with all my strength."

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least 485 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank since October 7, when Gaza-based militants attacked Israel. More than 1,100 people were killed in the attack—some by responding Israeli forces—and over 240 Israelis and others were kidnapped by Hamas and other militants.

Israel's 199-day retaliatory assault on Gaza—which critics including Israelis have called genocidal—has killed at least 34,151 Palestinians, mostly women and children, while wounding over 77,000 others, according to Palestinian and international officials. At least 11,000 Gazans are missing, presumed dead and buried beneath the rubble of the hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings that have been destroyed or damaged by Israeli bombardment. Around 90% of Gaza's 2.3 million people have been forcibly displaced, and Israel's continued obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery has fueled a burgeoning famine in which dozens of people, mostly children, have perished.