Hoo boy. Hopefully you missed the GOP "trash fire," "play date," "darkest saddest game of MadLibs ever" and "rancid buffet of bigotry" that was the final debate among four also-rans who again confirm the party isn't sending their best, or there aren't any. In an ugly, hollow, extremely loud and incredibly dumb display, Haley, Christie, DeFascist and "the most obnoxious blowhard in America" yelled at each other in a sordid effort to out-hate anyone who isn't a straight white Christian male. The result: They/we all lost.
Full disclosure: We didn't watch it. Honestly, we just couldn't. But we read some accounts, viewed some clips, looked at the pictures. It was enough, and then some. According to breathless, horse-race, mainstream media, the current status of the "casting couch for B-actors" auditioning for the slow but implacable debasing of American democracy shows Nikki Haley in a wobbly lead - albeit one that remains about 50 points behind the guy Chris Christie has taken to calling, "He who shall not be named." Nobody's sure why Christie's still there, but he retains the honor of being the only candidate who ever calls out our own monstrous Lord Voldemort, and who dares to suggest maybe bigotry isn't the best governing principle. DeSantis is said to be flailing because he's weird as fuck and obsessed with "genital mutilation," aka transgender health care. And evidently everyone agrees with Aaron Rupar's sentiments on "one of the most insufferable people around" - "Vivek Ramaswamy, please go away."
Despite fitful, malignant mentions of China, fentanyl, Ukraine, the border, most of the two-hour "debate" consisted of the candidates, faces twisted by rage, hammering each other. "While almost entirely irrelevant, it did give viewers a dreary view into the mind and soul (sic) of the GOP," writes Noah Berlatsky of a "compulsive xenophobia and fear-mongering (that) shows they've thrown off any pretense of offering anything other than white grievance." "If you're not a white Christian man," he notes, "the GOP probably hates you." Speakers moved from "denigrating one marginalized group to the next, targeting each for hate" while vying with each other to see who could be most virulent. Topping the list of targets were trans people; immigrants came a close second. "Trump wasn’t on that sad debate stage in Alabama. But his orange spirit hovered, spreading its miasma of fear and paranoia," notes Berlatsky. "The GOP, now more than ever, is a party that defines itself by who it hates."
Its immersion in white grievance and unapologetic racism - no talk of hope, unity, achievement here - offers more grim proof the GOP is now utterly Trump's party: "His cruelty has won." One sage likened the pleasure factor of watching its denizens gather and snarl at each other to that of Alaska's 4th of July Glacier View Car Launch, wherein junk cars go careening over a 300-foot cliff as revelers gawk and cheer. And the GOP brawlers were ready out of the gate: It took 30 seconds for DeSantis to assail Haley on what bathrooms transgender people should use, after which they sparred about who'd more quickly deny them health care. He bragged (again) about shooting drug-smugglers and, pivoting to the old stand-by anti-Semitism, bragged about fighting the pernicious influence of George Soros: "I have a record of standing up and doing what's right." (Haley: "You have a record of lying.") Asked if he thinks Trump is fit for office, DeSantis went deeper than those junk cars: "Father Time is undefeated." Umm, ok.
Often targeted by the three men - see wobbly lead, also girl - Haley argued "they're just jealous" because she's getting Koch money now. On the attack, she was mostly wrong and/or paranoid: Iran knows "the easiest way" to enter the U.S. is at the southern border (Iranians are unheard-of there); China, not Mexico is the main source for fentanyl (not); she wants a Muslim travel ban in places where "they say 'Death to America'" like Yemen and Iran (home to fierce pro-democracy protests); the biggest issue women face is trans women playing sports, but tell it to those forced to give birth. She inspired extra venom from Ramaswamy, who held up a lame “Nikki=Corrupt" sign to charge she's bought and paid for by the GOP (but aren't they all?), questioned her knowledge of Ukraine - "Foreign policy experience is not the same as foreign policy wisdom" - and pumped up his "spoiled-frat-boy-on-coke" shtick to blast the intriguing if incoherent insult, "You can put lipstick on a Dick Cheney, and it’s still a fascist neocon.”
Mostly, he spewed bizarro conspiracy theories: Jan. 6 was "an inside job," "Big Tech" stole the 2020 election, Dems are all about "the Great Replacement." Nobody challenged him. Nor did anyone mention guns, though the U.S. just recorded its highest number of mass shootings - most recently in Texas, Washington, Las Vegas - and Senate Republicans just refused to reauthorize 1994's Assault Weapons Ban, which worked. But he did, alone among the rabble, mention climate change - to say it's "a hoax." He really said that. "If you thought COVID was bad, what’s coming with this climate agenda is far worse," he babbled. "We should not be bending the knee to this new religion. We are flogging ourselves and losing our modern way of life bowing to this new god of climate, and that will end on my watch." Yeah, sure, let's make any of these vile, petty, dithering, bigoted, malevolent morons president. James Baldwin: "Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
So Long, Ronwww.youtube.com
Amid outrage from climate campaigners and senators, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil's proposed takeover of Pioneer Natural Resources, a regulatory filing revealed Tuesday.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Tuesday: "Last month, I and 22 other senators urged the FTC to investigate Exxon's $60 billion proposed blockbuster merger with Pioneer. And today—they heeded my warning."
"Americans care a great deal about gas prices," Schumer stressed, "and if this merger were to go through it would most certainly raise gas prices for families across the country."
"This merger has all the hallmarks of harmful, anticompetitive effects. The FTC is right to investigate this merger to see if it would lead to higher gas prices or less competition," he added. "I look forward to following this investigation closely, and will encourage the FTC to block the deal if they find any antitrust laws are being violated."
Alex Witt of Climate Power, an advocacy group founded by the Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund, League of Conservation Voters, and Sierra Club, also welcomed the FTC's inquiry in comments to The Associated Press.
"Exxon publicly promised to reduce emissions, yet subsequently spent $60 billion acquiring another fossil fuel company—doubling down on their commitment to oil and gas and putting profits over people," Witt said. "The FTC is right to investigate Exxon's acquisition of Pioneer, which could raise prices at the pump and is aimed at keeping the U.S. reliant on fossil fuels."
A CAP report highlighted Tuesday that in hopes of continuing to profit off of the destruction of the planet, the fossil fuel industry is "undermining democratic functions to stem the tide of climate action" around the world.
That report and the heightened scrutiny of the possible merger come during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), where attendees are considering scientists' warnings that fossil fuels must be rapidly phased out to prevent more devastating global heating.
"This deal shows that Exxon is doubling down on fossil fuels and has no intention of moving towards clean energy," Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media argued earlier this year. "Even after the hottest summer on record, Exxon is hellbent on driving the thermostat even higher."
The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday disputed more than 100 patents held by pharmaceutical companies that make asthma inhalers, EpiPens, and other items listed in the Food and Drug Administration's so-called "Orange Book," which identifies products the agency considers safe and effective.
The FTC sent letters to 10 companies—including AbbVie, AstraZeneca, and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals—notifying them that the commission believes some of their patents are improperly listed in the FDA's Orange Book.
Drug companies have long been accused of abusing the FDA patent listing system to undercut generic competition. In its warning letters to the pharmaceutical companies, the FTC notes that "patents improperly listed in the Orange Book may delay lower-cost generic drug competition."
"By listing their patents in the Orange Book, brand drug companies may benefit from an automatic, 30-month stay of FDA approval of competing generic drug applications," the agency's letters explain. "In addition to delays resulting from such a stay of approval, the costs associated with litigating improperly listed patents may disincentivize investments in developing generic drugs, which risks delaying or thwarting competitive entry. The Supreme Court recognizes that improper Orange Book listings have prevented or delayed generic drug entry since at least the 1990s."
While the letters state that the FTC has chosen to make use of the FDA's formal dispute process to target the allegedly improper listings, the agency said it retains "the right to take any further action the public interest may require," including legal action.
"Instead, we have found that firms are listing device patents that have absolutely nothing to do with the active ingredient," said Khan. "So they're instead covering the dispenser cap on a multidose eyedropper or the cap strap on an inhaler, which just keeps the inhalers in place."
"We've identified patents covering these components of devices," Khan added, "and that may in fact be resulting in Americans having to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than they should be."
"Big Pharma has been intentionally gaming the United States' drug safety system to block other manufacturers from making and selling the same treatments at lower prices."
Consumer advocates applauded the FTC's move as a key step toward challenging the pharmaceutical industry's profit-seeking manipulation of the U.S. patent system.
"We're thrilled to see the FTC crack down on over a hundred sham Orange Book listings, which keep lifesaving medicines like asthma inhalers and epinephrine prohibitively expensive for those who need them most," said Erik Peinert, research manager and editor at the American Economic Liberties Project. "Big Pharma has been intentionally gaming the United States' drug safety system to block other manufacturers from making and selling the same treatments at lower prices."
Public Citizen also welcomed the FTC's action in a social media post:
The FTC's warning letters to drug companies came after the agency issued a policy statement signaling that it intends to "scrutinize improper Orange Book listings to determine whether these constitute unfair methods of competition."
The statement notes that "patents listed in the Orange Book must claim the reference listed drug or a method of using it."
"Brand drug manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their patents are properly listed," the statement continues. "Yet certain manufacturers have submitted patents for listing in the Orange Book that claim neither the reference listed drug nor a method of using it. When brand drug manufacturers abuse the regulatory processes set up by Congress to promote generic drug competition, the result may be to increase the cost of and reduce access to prescription drugs."
A report published earlier this year by the American Economic Liberties Project estimated that antitrust violations by the pharmaceutical industry—including shame Orange Book listings—cost U.S. patients, insurers, and federal health programs more than $40 billion in 2019 alone.
Amid mounting alarm over his authoritarian ambitions for a second term, former President Donald Trump said during a Fox News town hall on Tuesday that he would be a dictator only on "day one," pledging to unilaterally close the U.S.-Mexico border and accelerate fossil fuel drilling.
Trump's remarks came in response to a question from host Sean Hannity, who asked the former president if he would promise to never "abuse power as retribution against anybody."
"Except for day one," Trump replied. "I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill... We're closing the border and we're drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I'm not a dictator."
"The moment for resisting Trump is right now, not waiting until January 21, 2025."
President Joe Biden's 2024 campaign immediately highlighted Trump's comments, posting a clip on social media and saying in a statement that the former president "has been telling us exactly what he will do if he's reelected."
"Tonight he said he will be a dictator on day one," said Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez. "Americans should believe him."
Trump's remarks Tuesday were just the latest evidence that the former president is preparing to aggressively wield executive power and arms of the federal government to pursue a far-right agenda and target his political enemies if he wins another White House term next year.
The Washington Postreported last month that Trump and his allies "have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents... with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations."
"Much of the planning for a second term has been unofficially outsourced to a partnership of right-wing think tanks in Washington," the Post noted. "Dubbed 'Project 2025,' the group is developing a plan, to include draft executive orders, that would deploy the military domestically under the Insurrection Act."
During a speech in New Hampshire last month, Trump promised to "root out" those he dubbed "radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country," a threat that critics likened to Nazi rhetoric.
The former president, who is currently facing more than 90 felony charges, also pledged that his administration would carry out "the largest domestic deportation operation in American history," revive the Muslim ban, slash taxes for the wealthiest even further, and accelerate pipeline approvals.
The New York Timesreported Tuesday that a Trump confidant who is "likely to serve in a senior national security role in any new Trump administration" threatened to "target journalists for prosecution if the former president regains the White House."
Kash Patel, who served as Trump's counterterrorism adviser on the National Security Council, said during an appearance on former Trump strategist Steve Bannon's podcast that "we will go out and find the conspirators, not just in government but in the media."
"Yes, we're going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens, who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections—we're going to come after you. Whether it's criminally or civilly, we'll figure that out," Patel said. "We're actually going to use the Constitution to prosecute them for crimes they said we have always been guilty of but never have."
In a column published Tuesday, The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch expressed concern about what he described as the lack of mass mobilization against Trump's 2024 presidential campaign, given his openly fascistic threats and behind-the-scenes planning.
"Trump is back, and no one calls him a demagogue anymore—because that's too polite," Bunch wrote. "The 47th presidency he envisions is tyrannical, even dictatorial—siccing zealous MAGA prosecutors on his political enemies and the media, pardoning 2021's insurrectionists, mass detention camps for deporting migrants, and calling out troops to put down protests, perhaps as early as his Inauguration Day. And yet he is all but guaranteed the GOP nomination, and an even-money bet against President Joe Biden next fall."
"As I write this on Monday night, 'dictator' is a trending topic on X/Twitter. It could be trending nightly if the too-silent majority of Americans who believe in democracy don't take a more forceful stand," Bunch warned. "The moment for resisting Trump is right now, not waiting until January 21, 2025."
At the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, families whose loved ones are among the tens of thousands of Americans who have died of opioid use disorder each year over the past two decades rallied to push the nine justices to reject a proposed bankruptcy plan that would give the former owners of Purdue Pharma legal immunity—with many joining the U.S. Justice Department in arguing that the company should not be released from accountability for the opioid epidemic.
Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2019, as the number of Americans killed by opioids hit 50,000 and the OxyContin manufacturer faced thousands of lawsuits alleging its aggressive marketing of the addictive painkiller had fueled the rising death toll.
The company agreed to settle the lawsuits for $10 billion, with the Sackler family—which oversaw Purdue when OxyContin was introduced and flooded communities across the U.S.—contributing $4 billion. In exchange, the Sacklers would be shielded from future lawsuits.
The bankruptcy plan—which now includes $6 billion from the Sacklers following a push from lawsuit plaintiffs—has been approved by state and local governments, tribes, and families and individuals who would be entitled to money.
But the U.S. Trustee Program, a watchdog at the Justice Department, has joined some families in arguing that the Sacklers should not be shielded from liability for the opioid crisis.
"No Sackler immunity at any $$," read one sign held by a woman outside the Supreme Court on Monday, while another said, "My dead son does not release Sacklers."
The issue at hand in the case, Harrington v. Purdue Pharma, is whether it is legal to give a third party—the Sackler family—legal immunity in a bankruptcy case even though they themselves have not declared bankruptcy, also known as nonconsensual third-party release.
A lawyer for groups and individuals told the court that families and governments are highly unlikely to get any more out of Purdue and the Sacklers than the money the company and family have offered as part of the deal.
The plan would include $161 million in a trust set aside for Native American tribes and $700 million to $750 million in a trust for families and individuals who were able to file claims, with payouts expected to range from about $3,500 to $48,000. Governments would use the money to set up addiction treatment centers and other programs to mitigate the opioid crisis.
"Forget a better deal—there is no other deal," lawyer Pratik Shah told the Supreme Court on Monday.
Curtis Gannon, representing the U.S. Trustee Program, noted that the Sackler family already showed that a "better deal" could be possible when it offered $6 billion for the plan instead of $4 billion. The Justice Department is advocating for a new settlement that would not include nonconsensual third-party releases, saying the current bankruptcy deal violates federal law.
"We do hope there is another deal at the end of this," said Gannon.
The justices appeared split on the case, in which a ruling is expected next summer. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted that appeals courts do not allow bankruptcy plans that take away the rights of alleged victims to sue parties that have not declared bankruptcy.
Outside the court, Alexis Pleus, who lost her son to opioid use disorder, told Aneri Pattani of KFF Health News that many families, including hers, will not be entitled to money under the current deal because they are required to provide records such as the original opioid prescription.
Beth Macy, author of the book Dopesick, told CNN Monday morning that while some families "are divided" about whether the bankruptcy plan and payouts should move forward, as the U.S. Trustee Program "has pointed out, only 20% of the families who were eligible to vote on [the proposal], even voted."
"I don't want their money," Jen Trejo, whose son Christopher was prescribed OxyContin at age 15 and died of an overdose when he was 32, told Pattani. "I want them in prison."
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller demurred Wednesday when asked if footage of decomposing newborn babies who died in a Gaza hospital—where staff were forced to flee an imminent Israeli invasion—showed a war crime.
"I would say that is a tragedy," Miller said during his daily press conference in response to a question from Al-Quds reporter Said Arikat about the infants' remains found last week in the evacuated neonatal intensive care unit at al-Nassr Children's Hospital in northern Gaza.
"It's a tragedy for those babies. It's a tragedy for their family members. It's a tragedy for the Palestinian people and it is a tragedy for the world," Miller continued. "And this is why we have made clear that far too many Palestinians have been killed in this conflict, and that, of course, includes far too many Palestinian children and of course, Palestinian babies."
"And it is why we have taken every measure we could to speak loudly and clearly to the government of Israel that it needs to do everything it can to minimize civilian harm," he added.
However, critics condemn the Biden administration for refusing to press Israel for a permanent cease-fire, and for seeking another $14.3 billion in U.S. military aid for Israel, which already gets nearly $4 billion in annual armed assistance from Washington.
Workers at al-Nassr Children's Hospital toldThe Washington Post that, with Israeli tanks surrounding the facility, oxygen supplies cut off by airstrikes, and warnings to flee for their lives, they were forced to leave behind four prematurely born babies—children of some of the 1.8 million Palestinians forcibly displaced in Gaza.
"I felt like I was leaving my own children behind," said one nurse. "If we had the ability to take them, we would have."
Two weeks later, local journalist Mohammed Balousha went to al-Nassr during the weeklong pause in the bombing. He witnessed the "terrible and horrific scene" of the mold-covered, worm-eaten bodies of the four babies, who he said had also been mauled by stray dogs.
Around the same time that al-Nassr staff were forced to abandon the infants, at least five premature babies died at al-Shifa Hospital after Israeli bombardment knocked out electricity needed to power its incubators. Earlier, Israeli forces also bombed the cancer ward of the al-Rantisi Pediatric Hospital.
According to Gaza officials, at least 7,112 children are among the more than 16,200 Palestinians killed in Gaza since Israel began what many critics around the world have called a "genocidal" assault on the besieged strip after Hamas-led attacks left 1,200 Israelis and others dead in southern Israel on October 7.
"Each day we see more dead children and new depths of suffering for the innocent people enduring this hell," Norwegian Refugee Council secretary-general Jan Egeland said Wednesday, demanding an immediate cease-fire. "The situation in Gaza is a total failure of our shared humanity. The killing must stop."
"The force with which the fossil fuel industry and their allies are coming to Dubai to sell the idea that we can 'capture' or 'manage' their carbon pollution is a sign of their desperation," said one advocate.
Leaders at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai have claimed over the past week that the summit is centering issues that impact the Global South, but an analysis released Friday helped illustrate how difficult it's been for advocates from some of the most climate-impacted countries to make their case for far-reaching action—as the carbon capture and storage sector has far more representation at COP28 than many vulnerable nations.
The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) reported to The Guardian that at least 475 lobbyists representing carbon capture and storage (CCS) interests are attending COP28.
Many of the lobbyists represent companies that have developed CCS projects against the advice of climate and energy experts who say a phase-out of all fossil fuel emissions is needed to limit planetary heating to 1.5°C, or as close to it as possible.
More than 2,400 fossil fuel industry representatives are at the meeting, which is scheduled to end December 12. CCS has some of the most prominent representation at COP28, according to The Guardian.
"Thousands of fossil fuel lobbyists are roaming these halls alongside their peers, advancing dangerous distractions like carbon capture and storage... while communities enduring the greatest impacts from the climate crisis are having our voices silenced."
Representation for countries that are already facing climate catastrophes including prolonged drought, famine, and sea level rise has been dwarfed in comparison, with 366 people attending on behalf of Somalia, 79 representing Tonga, 56 representing the Solomon Islands, and just seven in attendance for Eritrea.
The CCS bloc also outnumbers Indigenous representatives by 50%, reported The Guardian.
"Thousands of fossil fuel lobbyists are roaming these halls alongside their peers, advancing dangerous distractions like carbon capture and storage, trying to block a fast, fair, forever fossil fuel phase-out—while communities enduring the greatest impacts from the climate crisis are having our voices silenced and our lives treated as a worthy sacrifice for profit," Blessed Chidhoni of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice told the outlet.
Lili Fuhr, director of CIEL's fossil economy program, said COP28 has invited more than 470 lobbyists to speak out in favor of "the fossil fuel industry's lifeline and... their latest excuse and delay tactic."
As Common Dreams reported this week, a recent draft of the Global Stocktake that delegates are working to finalize showed how powerful fossil fuel-producing countries are pushing for an agreement that would allow "abated" emissions—those that are "captured" by CCS technology and stored underground or beneath the seabed or "utilized" to make fertilizers and other products.
"The force with which the fossil fuel industry and their allies are coming to Dubai to sell the idea that we can 'capture' or 'manage' their carbon pollution is a sign of their desperation," said Fuhr. "We must not let an army of carbon capture lobbyists blow a gigantic loophole into the energy package here at COP28."
As Common Dreamsreported in May, energy-intensive carbon capture technology would increase energy consumption at fossil fuel-fired plants by 20% while also worsening environmental injustice by subjecting people in the surrounding area to increased levels of smog, benzene, and formaldehyde pollution.
Critics say CCS is far from a solution to the fossil-fueled planetary heating crisis, as policymakers at COP28 have proposed setting up infrastructure capable of capturing just 1.2 gigatonnes of carbon emissions—only 3% of global emissions in 2022.
"CCS is an unproven technology and a dangerous distraction, which enables big polluters to keep destroying communities and the environment," said Climate Action Network International.
In an analysis last month, CIEL noted that the U.S. "is the epicenter of the global push for CCS, with a long history of using captured carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery and extraordinary subsidies for carbon capture."
"The accelerating efforts to build ever more dangerous, unnecessary, and expensive infrastructure offshore should be abandoned, and subsidies for CCS should be eliminated," said Steven Feit, CIEL's senior attorney and legal and research manager.
One major U.S. CCS project, Petra Nova, shut down in 2020 after capturing 3.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in its first three years. Developers had projected it would capture 4.6 million tons.
Another project in Western Australia—the largest carbon capture and utilization/storage endeavor in the world, missed its capture targets by about 50% in the first five years, and The Guardianreported this year that emissions have now risen by 50%.
"CCS's track record is riddled with failures and warning signs about the technology's feasibility and safety," said Nikki Reisch climate and energy program director for CIEL. "CCS is a false promise that only helps to keep fossil fuel facilities running and oil and gas fields pumping."
"People and institutions have spent the past two months weaponizing Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias to both justify the ongoing violence against Palestinians in Gaza and silence supporters of Palestinian human rights."
Three university students were shot and wounded in Burlington, Vermont. A New York City food cart vendor was repeatedly harassed by a former U.S. State Department official. A six-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Plainfield Township, Illinois.
Those are just three high-profile examples of what the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States said Thursday is a dramatic surge in Islamophobia across the country since U.S.-backed Israeli forces launched a devastating war on the Gaza Strip two months ago in response to a Hamas-led attack on Israel.
From October 7 to December 2, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) national headquarters and chapters received a total of 2,171 requests for help and reports of bias—a 172% increase over a similar two-month period the previous year.
"It's staggering to see this kind of spike in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate in less than two months," said CAIR research and advocacy director Corey Saylor. "Far too many people and institutions have spent the past two months weaponizing Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias to both justify the ongoing violence against Palestinians in Gaza and silence supporters of Palestinian human rights here in America."
The incredible bloodshed and destruction in Gaza—with over 17,000 Palestinians dead, about 80% of the 2.3 million residents displaced, and many homes, hospitals, mosques, and schools destroyed—have led to large-scale protests across the United States demanding that the U.S. government stop giving Israel billions of dollars in military aid.
Throughout the war, there has also been a dramatic increase in reports of antisemitism across the United States. There have also been efforts to conflate discrimination against Jews and legitimate criticism of the Israeli government—including congressional legislation. Critics of what many experts around the world are calling Israel's "genocidal" violence in Gaza have faced consequences, from job losses to the suspension of university campus groups promoting Palestinian rights.
As Common Dreamsreported Thursday afternoon, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) announced "an official congressional investigation with the full force of subpoena power" into the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other schools regarding antisemitism on campus and administrators' responses.
CAIR revealed that at its national headquarters, First Amendment issues, or violations of the right to free speech and expression, are the most common cases at nearly 34%, a 63% increase from the first month of the war to the last four weeks. Those reports are followed by problems with employment (22%), hate crimes and hate speech (17%), and education and bullying (14%).
The cases include that of Jana Alwan, a Muslim woman who was riding a train in Washington, D.C. on October 18. According to a letter CAIR sent last month to the Metro Transit Police Department, an unidentified white man flashed a gun and threatened to behead Alwan, who "was wearing a keffiyeh, an identifiable scarf traditionally worn by Palestinian and Arab people."
Earlier this month, the Idara Jaferia Islamic Center in Burtonsville, Maryland, was evacuated because of a bomb threat. CAIR is calling on state and local law enforcement to bring hate crime charges against the perpetrator.
"From Burlington to Chicago to D.C. and elsewhere, innocent Americans are suffering the consequences of this wave of bigotry," CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad said Thursday. "Until our nation stops the violence IN Gaza and rejects bigotry here in America, we fear that both Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism will continue to spin out of control."
"Federal agencies have shown themselves reluctant to act against unreasonable prices, and this new proposal may give them permission to continue to do nothing," said one expert.
While welcoming the White House's willingness to tackle pharmaceutical companies' patent abuse and high prescription drug prices, progressive critics argued Thursday that U.S. President Joe Biden must do more to challenge Big Pharma's monopoly power.
The White House on Thursday announced "new actions to promote competition in healthcare and support lowering prescription drug costs for American families, including the release of a proposed framework for agencies on the exercise of march-in rights on taxpayer-funded drugs and other inventions."
Under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980—legislation meant to promote the commercialization and public availability of government-funded inventions—federal agencies reserve the right to "march in" and authorize price-lowering generic alternatives to patented medications developed with public funding.
The federal government has never invoked march-in rights, which are staunchly opposed by the pharmaceutical and other industries and interests.
"American taxpayers pay more for research than any country in the world: Hundreds of billions of dollars on research relevant to developing new drugs through the [National Institutes of Health] and other agencies," White House domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden said at a Thursday press briefing, according toThe Hill.
"But at the same time, pharmaceutical companies charge Americans two to three times—and sometimes even more than that—for the same drugs than what they can charge in other countries," she added.
The White House said Thursday that the Department of Commerce and Department of Health and Human Services "released a proposed framework for agencies on the exercise of march-in rights that specifies for the first time that price can be a factor in determining that a drug or other taxpayer-funded invention is not accessible to the public."
The issue of greedy pharmaceutical companies charging exorbitant prices for publicly funded drugs took center stage during the Covid-19 pandemic, when corporations reaped record profits selling vaccines and other treatments developed fully or partly with taxpayer money.
U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—a leading congressional critic of Big Pharma greed—called Thursday's announcement "a step forward in the right direction."
But, in my view, much more must be done. The American people are sick and tired of seeing hundreds of billions of their tax dollars going to the research and development of new treatments and cures only to end up paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. In my view, the administration should reinstate and expand the reasonable pricing clause to require the pharmaceutical industry to charge affordable prices for new prescription drugs developed with taxpayer support. It should also move to substantially lower the price of the prostate cancer drug Xtandi by allowing companies to manufacture generic versions of this treatment. This is a drug that was invented with taxpayer dollars by scientists at UCLA and can be purchased in Canada for one-fifth [of] the U.S. price.
In March, patient advocates blasted the Biden administration's refusal to compel Pfizer to lower Xtandi's price, even though the lifesaving prostate cancer drug—which has a nearly $190,000 annual price tag—was developed completely with public funds.
Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines program at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said: "March-in can be, should be, a powerful tool to support fair pricing and access to publicly funded medicines, as President Biden importantly suggests. Unfortunately, the administration's march-in policy is far more limited than the statute allows."
"It should be quickly revised to recommend use of march-in wherever publicly funded medicines are unreasonably priced," he continued. "Where most drug prices already are egregious and force rationing, few drugs will seem 'extremely' priced by comparison. Federal agencies have shown themselves reluctant to act against unreasonable prices, and this new proposal may give them permission to continue to do nothing."
"Unfortunately, the administration's march-in policy is far more limited than the statute allows."
"The examples the announcement offers evade the main and important use case: Where drug corporations abuse their monopoly power to charge exorbitant prices, ignore the government contribution to [research and development], and charge Americans more than people in other countries," Maybarduk asserted.
"The final guidelines must be adjusted so they explicitly cover these scenarios and establish commonsense criteria for what constitutes an unreasonable price," he added. "Falling short risks doing nothing to lower the prices of taxpayer-funded medicines for patients, and instead perpetuating an unacceptable status quo. Americans have a right to expect not to be price gouged for medicines they paid for in the first place."