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Chinese authorities should immediately reestablish access to the organization's website, Amnesty International said today.
Amnesty International has discovered that its main website, www.amnesty.org, is once again blocked inside mainland China. Other sites recently blocked include the popular blog portal Bullog.
"We fear the re-blocking of Amnesty International's website indicates a widening crackdown, particularly as 2009 will see a number of important commemorations," said Roseann Rife, deputy director of Amnesty International's Asia Pacific program.
This year will see many notable anniversaries in China, including the 50th anniversary of the 1959 uprising in Tibet, the 30th anniversary of the "Democracy Wall" movement, and the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen protests, all of which could inspire protests and trigger government crackdowns.
Chinese authorities unblocked Amnesty International's website shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics along with the websites of a number of other human rights organizations and media outlets, including the BBC Chinese website. At the time, Amnesty International welcomed the move and expressed hope that this signaled a more open attitude toward human rights.
Chinese authorities recently announced an effort to clean up "vulgar" internet content and targeted many sites including MSN, Baidu and Google. State media reported on Jan. 11 that since Jan. 8, the authorities had closed down 91 websites.
"These retreats on human rights are unacceptable, especially now as China is preparing to release its first ever Human Rights Action Plan," said Rife.
On Nov. 4 2008, the State Council Information Office announced the drafting of a two-year human rights action plan, to cover areas such as governance, democracy, rule of law, the rights of women, children and ethnic minorities, and including provisions for human rights education. On Dec. 30, Wang Chen, Minister of the State Council Information Office, revealed that the action plan would be released in early 2009.
Despite this, authorities have targeted websites and blogs that reprint and collect signatures for Charter 08, a petition signed by many well-known academics and human rights activists that proposes a blueprint for fundamental legal and political reform in China. Recently Amnesty International called for the immediate release of Liu Xiaobo, a signatory of Charter 08 who is currently under "residential surveillance."
Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.(212) 807-8400
"These health insurance CEOs have been so successful not because they have improved the health and well-being of Americans, but rather because they have sustained financial returns for Wall Street investors."
The United States' healthcare system is the worst in the developed world, delivering the highest death rates for treatable conditions, the highest infant and maternal mortality rates, and the lowest life expectancy at birth.
But a system that is failing patients, often in catastrophic ways, has been a massive boon for the executives who run the few private companies that dominate the nation's healthcare sector.
Last year, the CEOs of CVS Health, UnitedHealth Group, Cigna, Elevance Health, Centene, Humana, and Molina Healthcare—the top seven publicly traded health insurance giants in the U.S.—brought in a combined $335 million in compensation, STAT recently reported.
The outlet emphasized that "high-flying stock prices again fueled a vast majority of the gains," which mark a new record. Joseph Zubretsky, the CEO of Molina Healthcare—a company whose revenue comes entirely from taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicaid—took home a staggering $181 million in 2022.
As former Cigna executive Wendell Potter noted Tuesday, "these health insurance CEOs have been so successful not because they have improved the health and well-being of Americans, but rather because they have sustained financial returns for Wall Street investors."
"Not much has changed in how insurer CEOs are compensated since I left Cigna in 2008. Except they're making way more," wrote Potter, who is now the executive director of the Center for Health and Democracy.
In a new analysis of the latest CEO pay figures, Potter observed that "had it not been for their companies' share buybacks"—which help boost the price of their stock by reducing the number of shares outstanding—"they wouldn't have banked nearly that much money."
"My analysis of how much the companies have used our premiums and tax dollars to buy back shares of their own stock showed that combined they spent $141 billion on share repurchases between 2007 and 2022," Potter wrote. "Keep in mind that that is $141 billion that otherwise could have been used to reduce our premiums and deductibles–and keep an untold number of American families out of bankruptcy and away from GoFundMe–but was used instead to increase the wealth of their shareholders and top executives."
\u201c(1/6) LATEST: CEOs from the 7 big health insurance companies pulled in $335 million in just 2022 alone.\n\nHow did they do it?\n\nBy imposing high out-out-pockets requirements and premiums; stock share repurchases; and by gaming the Medicare and drug supply chain.\u201d— Wendell Potter (@Wendell Potter) 1686067073
Potter argued that the CEOs' exorbitant pay packages are "especially alarming when you consider that they are getting more and more of it from us as taxpayers" as tens of millions of Americans go without insurance, struggle to afford their prescription medicines, and drown in medical debt.
In an analysis released earlier this year, Potter estimated that government programs are the source of around 90% of the health plan revenues of Molina, Humana, and Centene.
Centene CEO Sarah London brought in more than $13 million in total compensation last year, and Humana chief Bruce Broussard took home more than $17 million. Both companies are major providers of Medicare Advantage—a privately run, publicly funded, and fraud-ridden program that is a growing source of insurance company revenues.
"Keep all of this in mind the next time you go to the pharmacy counter and are told that even with insurance you'll have to pay a king's ransom for your meds because your insurer—through its pharmacy benefit manager (PBM)—has once again jacked up your out-of-pocket requirement," Wendell wrote. "Or the next time you notice how much has been deducted from your paycheck for your health insurance–and Uncle Sam."
Fresh outrage over the pay of insurance industry CEOs, which surged during the coronavirus pandemic as millions lost health coverage and got sick, comes amid a renewed Medicare for All push in Congress.
Last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and others reintroduced Medicare for All legislation in both chambers, with more co-sponsors than ever before—though the bill has no chance of passing the divided Congress.
The legislation would virtually eliminate private health insurance and provide comprehensive care to all for free at the point of service, a transformative change that would likely save tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
"In America, your health and your longevity should not be dependent on your bank account or your stock portfolio," said Sanders. "After all the lives that we lost to this terrible pandemic, it is clearer now, perhaps more than it has ever been before, that we must act to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth to not guarantee healthcare to all."
"PGA Tour leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed."
In an agreement that will end years of acrimony and litigation, PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF)—which owns LIV Golf—surprised the world of golf and beyond by announcing Tuesday that they are merging into "a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity."
"Our entire 9/11 community has been betrayed by Commissioner Monahan and the PGA."
Human rights advocates excoriated Monahan and the deal. Terry Strada, who chairs the 9/11 Families United coalition and whose husband Tom died in the attack on the World Trade Center, said in a statement that "Monahan co-opted the 9/11 community last year in the PGA's unequivocal agreement that the Saudi LIV project was nothing more than sportswashing of Saudi Arabia's reputation."
\u201cJay Monahan changed his tune considerably after telling the media and players his concerns with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour. \n\nPart 1 \ud83d\udc47\u201d— Awful Announcing (@Awful Announcing) 1686093488
"But now the PGA and Monahan appear to have become just more paid Saudi shills, taking billions of dollars to cleanse the Saudi reputation so that Americans and the world will forget how the kingdom spent their billions of dollars before 9/11 to fund terrorism, spread their vitriolic hatred of Americans, and finance al-Qaeda and the murder of our loved ones," Strada continued. "Make no mistake—we will never forget."
"Mr. Monahan talked last summer about knowing people who lost loved ones on 9/11, then wondered aloud on national television whether LIV golfers ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour," Strada added. "They do now—as does he. PGA Tour leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed. Our entire 9/11 community has been betrayed by Commissioner Monahan and the PGA as it appears their concern for our loved ones was merely window-dressing in their quest for money—it was never to honor the great game of golf."
\u201cNothing is more American than the PGA vilifying golfers who took hundreds of millions of dollars to play for an immoral, murderous undemocratic, anti-American regime...\n\nThen partnering with that immoral, undemocratic, anti-American murderous regime.\n\nhttps://t.co/NBIrZbCKxb\u201d— Michael Harriot (@Michael Harriot) 1686065123
Some members of U.S. Congress—a body that responded to 9/11 by voting overwhelmingly to authorize an open-ended war that experts say has claimed millions of lives—welcomed the PGA-LIV Golf merger, among them Reps. Jim Clyburn (D) and Nancy Mace (R), both of South Carolina.
"Obviously Saudi money being involved... you know, I'd have some concerns over that," Mace, who chairs the Congressional Golf Caucus, toldHuffPost. "But look at my district—we've got over 30 golf courses."
Former President Donald Trump—whose golf courses have hosted LIV Golf events—called the deal "big, beautiful, and glamorous" for the sport.
Other lawmakers—mostly Democrats—condemned the merger.
\u201cA merger of this size & weight deserved a vote from the PGA Tour Players -- another reason why player unions matter. \u00a0Golf is one of the only major professional sports leagues in the US without one.\u201d— Ro Khanna (@Ro Khanna) 1686070295
"Hypocrisy doesn't begin to describe this brazen, shameless cash grab," Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tweeted. "I'm going to dive into every piece of Saudi Arabia's deal with the PGA. U.S. officials need to consider whether a deal will give the Saudi regime inappropriate control or access to U.S. real estate."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) accused the PGA Tour of paying "lip service" to uplifting the game of golf, which will be used "unabashedly by [Saudi Arabia] to distract from its many crimes."
\u201cSo weird. PGA officials were in my office just months ago talking about how the Saudis' human rights record should disqualify them from having a stake in a major American sport.\n\nI guess maybe their concerns weren't really about human rights?\u201d— Chris Murphy \ud83d\udfe7 (@Chris Murphy \ud83d\udfe7) 1686066929
Ruled for generations by the House of Saud under Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia perennially scores near the bottom of most international human rights indices. Women, religious and sexual minorities, and political dissidents are especially repressed. "Crimes" including apostasy—renouncing Islam—blasphemy, witchcraft, prostitution, and even adultery are punishable by death, often by public beheading.
Abroad, Saudi Arabia leads a U.S.-backed coalition intervening in Yemen's civil war, in which nearly 400,000 people have been killed. Despite pledging to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" during his 2020 presidential campaign, U.S. President Joe Biden has, like his predecessors going back to the first half of the 20th century, continued friendly and highly lucrative relations with the monarchy.
\u201c\u201c[Saudis] are scary motherf-ckers to get involved with. We know they killed [Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay.\u201d - Phil Mickelson. Within a day, he apologized to the Saudi Royal Family for these comments.\u201d— Dave Zirin (@Dave Zirin) 1686081241
According to U.S. intelligence agencies, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the 2018 kidnapping and brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist with permanent U.S. residency. Biden angered many human rights advocates by moving to protect the crown prince from accountability.
"An incredible embarrassment for the House Republican leadership," said one observer. "The morning McCarthy tries to turn the page, conservatives slap him and his leadership team in the face."
Progressive pundits on Tuesday derided what one commentator called a "complete shitshow" as a group of hard-right House Republicans voted with their Democratic colleagues in tanking GOP-backed bills to block regulation of gas stoves.
Members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus joined Democrats in voting against a rule to advance four bills, two of them related to shielding gas stoves from federal regulation. Industry groups including the American Gas Association—which has known and tried to hide for decades that gas stoves can harm human health—support the legislation.
"Today, we took down the rule because we're frustrated at the way this place is operating," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told reporters, according to The Hill. "We took a stand in January to end the era of the imperial speakership. We're concerned that the fundamental commitments that allowed Kevin McCarthy to assume the speakership have been violated as a consequence of the debt limit deal."
\u201cWow. Kevin McCarthy\u2019s vote to protect gas stoves just FAILED on the House floor after some MAGA Republicans revolted to \u201cpunish\u201d McCarthy for not letting the US economy crash from the debt ceiling.\n\nComplete shitshow.\u201d— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen) 1686077994
While many progressives were infuriated by the deal struck between President Joe Biden and McCarthy (R-Calif.) to raise the nation's debt limit and avoid a first-ever default because the agreement helps protect wealth tax dodgers while slashing social safety net and climate spending, far-right Republicans also loathe the deal because they believe its belt-tightening measures are largely cosmetic.
"We warned them not to cut that deal without coming down and sit down and talk to us. So this is all about restoring a process that will fundamentally change things back to what was working," said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who also voted against advancing the gas stove bills.
In addition to Gaetz and Roy, the following Republicans voted to block the bills' advancement: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.) and Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Bob Good (Va.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), and Matt Rosendale (Mont.).
\u201cAn incredible embarrassment for the House Republican leadership. The morning McCarthy tries to turn the page, conservatives slap him and his leadership team in the face.\u201d— Jake Sherman (@Jake Sherman) 1686078829
"Haha. Republicans don't even have the votes to advance their own bill creating fake hysteria around banning gas stoves—which no one is trying to do," tweeted Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett. "The House GOP majority hard at work on the issues that matter most!"