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 - one witness swore you could see her soul leave her body - though it would have been far more useful for her to shriek WTF?! as the madman burbled. "I wanted it to be 'The Twilight Zone' and all go away," she said in a later interview. "I could just see everything unraveling." From then on, said a former Obama 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 necessary, see Sarah Cooper four years ago depict his moment of COVID ignominy, 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. Are we better off than we were four years ago? For fuck's sake, yes. "Don't inject bleach," Biden urges. "And don’t vote for the guy who told you to inject bleach."

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."

Elon Musk

Forbes Billionaires List Shows 'Utterly Unconscionable' Wealth Growth of World's Richest

Forbes on Tuesday released its latest catalog of, as one economic justice campaigner put it, people who should be regulated "out of existence" as the business magazine unveiled its 2024 Billionaires List, featuring near the top a number of U.S. tech billionaires who have aggressively opposed workers' rights movements and fair taxation.

The magazine reported that the number of worldwide billionaires grew by 141 in the past year, with 2,781 people holding wealth that exceeds $1 billion.

Those people own combined assets of $14.2 trillion, exceeding the gross domestic product of every country in the world except the U.S. and China.

Bernard Arnault, head of the LVMH fashion and cosmetics empire in France, currently holds the top slot on the Billionaires List, while Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos are No. 2 and No. 3 on the list.

Both Musk and Bezos have garnered international attention in recent years for their companies' illegal anti-union activity, and Tesla and Amazon have both avoided billions of dollars in federal taxes in recent years.

"It is utterly unconscionable that at a time where masses of the world's population are living in dire poverty, a few individuals are allowed to amass staggering wealth," said Daisy Pearson, campaigns and activism officer at Global Justice Now. "This is only possible through exploitation, and their monopolization of wealth and resources further allows them to amass huge power and influence over decisions that affect our everyday lives. Enough is enough—we should be regulating these barons out of existence."

"It is utterly unconscionable that at a time where masses of the world's population are living in dire poverty, a few individuals are allowed to amass staggering wealth."

Chase Peterson-Withorn, wealth editor at Forbes, toldThe Guardian that "the superrich continue to thrive" as people across the planet face higher prices of goods, cost-of-living crises, and the costs associated with increasingly frequent extreme weather events and the climate emergency.

"A record-breaking 14 centibillionaires [$100 billion] have 12-figure fortunes," Peterson-Whithorn said.

Luke Hildyard, executive director of the High Pay Center, told the outlet that the Forbes list, rather than an accounting of those who have earned the most money, "is essentially an annual calculation of how much of the wealth created by the global economy is captured by a tiny caste of oligarchs rather than being used to benefit humanity as a whole."

While the global population is "living through incredibly unequal times, lurching from one crisis to the next," added Robert Palmer, executive director of Tax Justice U.K., the richest people in the world amass "extraordinary levels of wealth."

"World leaders need to ensure the superrich are paying their fair share, for example through introducing wealth taxes," said Palmer. "This would help provide the resources needed to tackle multiple crises from inequality to climate change."

CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal

Congressional Progressives Unveil 'Bold' Agenda for Second Biden Term

The Congressional Progressive Caucus on Thursday published a "comprehensive domestic policy legislative agenda" for U.S. President Joe Biden's possible second White House term that seeks to "deliver equality, justice, and economic security for working people."

The CPC's Progressive Proposition Agenda is a seven-point plan aimed at lowering the cost of living, boosting wages and worker power, advancing justice, combating climate change and protecting the environment, strengthening democracy, breaking the corporate stranglehold on the economy, and bolstering public education.

"Progressives are proud to have been part of the most significant Democratic legislative accomplishments of this century. We have made real progress for everyday Americans—but there's much more work to be done," Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

"That's why the Progressive Caucus has identified these popular, populist, and possible solutions," she added. "Democrats in Congress can meet the urgent needs people are facing; rewrite the rules to ensure majorities of this country are no longer barred from the American promise of equality, justice, and economic opportunity; and motivate people with a vision of progressive governance under Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and a Democratic White House."

Progressive lawmakers have already introduced bills for many items on the agenda, including a Green New Deal for Public Schools, expanding the Supreme Court, comprehensive voting rights protection, and legalizing marijuana.

Critics noted the conspicuous absence of Medicare for All—once a top progressive agenda item—and foreign policy issues including ending Israel's genocide, apartheid, occupation, settler colonization, and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

Jayapal toldNBC News that the CPC is focusing its blueprint exclusively on domestic goals—especially ones it feels can be achieved.

"The way we came to this agenda is to say that we were going to put into this agenda things that were populist and possible... and affected a huge number of people," she said. "We haven't taken a position on particularly Israel and Gaza in the progressive caucus, and so that's not on here."

The CPC agenda is backed by a wide range of labor, climate, environmental, civil rights, consumer, faith-based, and other organizations.

"The Congressional Progressive Caucus is leading the way for Congress to address the major issues affecting working families, from reducing healthcare and housing costs to strengthening workers' rights to join unions, earn living wages and benefits, and have safe workplaces," Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry said in a statement.

"SEIU is proud to partner with the CPC to move these priorities forward and build a more equitable economy in which corporations are held accountable for their actions," she added.

Mary Small, chief strategy officer at Indivisible, said: "House progressives were the engine at the heart of our legislative accomplishments in 2021 and 2022. They've continued that momentum to be true governing partners to the Biden administration as those laws and programs are implemented."

"That's why Indivisible is so supportive of the CPC's Proposition Agenda, a bold vision for progressive governance in 2025 and beyond. From reproductive rights to saving our democracy to economic security for all, the CPC is driving forward exactly the sort of legislative goals we want to see in our next governing moment."

That moment is far from guaranteed, with not only the White House hanging in the balance as Biden will all but certainly face former Republican President Donald Trump in November's election but also the Senate Democratic Caucus clinging to a single-seat advantage over the GOP. Republicans currently hold the House of Representatives by a five-seat margin.

Students occupy Columbia University's campus

US College Students Demonstrate in Solidarity With Palestinians, Columbia Protesters

Undeterred by Columbia University's sanctioning of a crackdown by the New York Police Department in which at least 108 people were arrested on Thursday for protesting Israel's war on Gaza, dozens of students continued to camp out on the campus' West Lawn Friday as solidarity protests cropped up at other schools across the country.

Students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC) set up tents at a rally, while the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee announced a walkout to express solidarity with "steadfast Columbia students" and emergency protests were announced at Boston University; Miami University in Oxford, Ohio; and Ohio State University.

"Columbia University made a huge mistake calling the cops on student protesters," said Jairo I. Fúnez-Flores, a faculty member at Texas Tech University. "It has transformed the activism of hundreds of students into a student movement of thousands with millions around the world watching."

National Students for Justice in Palestine, whose Columbia University chapter was shut down late last year after members protested against the institution's investments in Israeli companies and partnership with Tel Aviv University, called on all of its chapters across college campuses to join in solidarity actions.

"The supposed power of these administrators pales in comparison to the combined strength of the students, staff, and faculty committed to realizing justice and upholding Palestinian liberation on campus," said the national group.

At the impromptu rally at UNC, students chanted, "No justice, no peace!"

The solidarity actions came a day after Columbia president Minouche Shafik authorized the police to dismantle an encampment set up by dozens of students. Shafik testified before a Republican-controlled U.S. House committee on Wednesday where the focus was antisemitism on the school's campus, and admitted she has not witnessed anti-Jewish protests at Columbia since Israel began its assault on Gaza last October.

After the students were arrested Thursday, one student Barnard College—which is part of Columbia—posted on social media an email she had received from vice president and dean Leslie Grinage about the suspension of several students.

The students were forced to leave their housing and have had their access to all campus facilities revoked during the suspension.

Several members of the press reported being denied entry to Columbia's campus on Thursday and Friday, prompting the university's journalism school to offer its assistance and reiterate its support for a free press.

Barnaby Raine, an historian earning his Ph.D. at Columbia, urged fellow educators at the Ivy League school to demonstrate solidarity with the student-led protests.

"As my employer, Columbia University, calls armed riot police into campus to smash a peaceful protest against a genocide, we must all speak out," said Raine. "My former students have been arrested. I'm proud of you. History will be too."

Actor, activist, and former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who graduated from Barnard, condemned the administrators' response to the protests.

"I am shocked and ashamed that [Barnard] and Columbia are violently crushing the right of students to peacefully protest," said Nixon. "This is not who we are. Both schools must immediately reinstate these students and protect their right to fight for a free Palestine."

Israeli tanks

Led by US, Global Military Spending Surged to Record $2.4 Trillion Last Year

New research published Monday shows that global military spending increased in 2023 for the ninth consecutive year, surging to $2.4 trillion as Russia's assault on Ukraine and Israel's war on the Gaza Strip helped push war-related outlays to an all-time high.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recorded military spending increases in every geographical region it examined last year, from Europe to Oceania to the Middle East. Last year's global increase of 6.8% was the largest since 2009, SIPRI said.

The United States was by far the largest military spender at $916 billion in 2023, up 2.3% compared to the previous year. The next biggest spender was China, which poured an estimated $296 billion into its military last year—three times less than the U.S.

"Can we get some healthcare please, or maybe feed some of the 40 million+ Americans who can't get enough food?" asked the watchdog group Public Citizen in response to SIPRI's report, which found that the U.S. accounted for 37% of the world's total military spending last year.

A separate analysis of U.S. military spending in 2023 found that 62% of the country's federal discretionary budget went to militarized programs, leaving less than half of the budget for healthcare, housing, nutrition assistance, education, and other domestic priorities.

Together, SIPRI found, the top five biggest military spenders last year—the U.S., China, Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia—accounted for 61% of global military outlays.

"The unprecedented rise in military spending is a direct response to the global deterioration in peace and security," Nan Tian, senior researcher with SIPRI's Military Expenditure and Arms Production Program, said in a statement. "States are prioritizing military strength but they risk an action-reaction spiral in the increasingly volatile geopolitical and security landscape."

In the Middle East, military spending jumped by 9% last year—the highest annual growth rate in the past decade. Israel, which relies heavily on weapons imports from the U.S., spent 24% more on its military last year than in 2022, according to SIPRI, an increase fueled by the country's devastating assault on Gaza.

SIPRI found that NATO's 31 member countries dumped a combined $1.3 trillion into military expenditures in 2023, accounting for 55% of the global total.

U.S. military spending, which is poised to continue surging in the coming years, made up 68% of NATO's 2023 total.