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Kathy Mulady, (206) 992-8787
Donald Trump's cabinet nominees signal a war on working people, the poor, people of color, immigrants and women. In response, People's Action has launched an all-out effort to oppose these nominees that will engage its entire family of affiliates across 30 states.
People's Action has joined with allies nationwide in hosting resistance assemblies to insist that Congress reject nominees whose policies would put Americans in jeopardy, and begin planning future action. These assemblies will take place from December 14 to December 18.
After promising to help families, Trump's proposed cabinet is filled with billionaires, family-fortune heirs, a white supremacist, right-wing zealots, anti-government crusaders and a hedge-fund manager who foreclosed on a 90-year-old woman over 27 cents.
They intend to auction our health care off to insurance corporations, shred our democracy, and destroy a nearly 200-year history of public education. In short, Trump has broken his promise to "drain the swamp" in Washington in favor of turning the swamp truly toxic.
"What Trump's cabinet appointees have in common is a track record of working in their own self-interest, not public service, and amassing personal fortunes, not fighting for working families," said LeeAnn Hall, co-director of People's Action.
The appointments are not final and the nominees must still be approved by the U.S. Senate.
"Donald Trump campaigned on draining the swamp, instead he's flooding it with Wall Street bankers and corporate lobbyists. How does appointing the bankers that we taxpayers bailed out signal change?" said George Goehl, co-director of People's Action.
"We are teaming of with other progressive organizations to pressure legislators to reject nominees with values so starkly opposite of the values of America's families and working people," said Goehl.
People's Action has been planning and leading resistance assemblies in auditoriums, churches and coffee shops around the country to help people who are scared or angry make sense of this moment and make concrete plans for the work ahead.
A look at the some of the appointees paints a undeniable picture of what's ahead:
Housing and Urban Development Secretary: Ben Carson
Carson is a neurosurgeon with no experience managing a complex agency, or developing housing policy on homelessness or discrimination. He believes it's up to charities and neighbors to take care of poor people, not the government. He likened a HUD initiative to promote racially integrated housing to "failed socialist experiments." He has compared gay rights advocates to pedophiles and bestiality supporters, and he opposes same-sex marriage.
Treasury Secretary: Steven Mnuchin
As the founder of OneWest, Mnuchin built his personal fortune on the backs of people thrown out of their homes during the 2008 financial crisis, while taking bailout money from the federal government at the same time. His bank went after a 90-year-old woman's home over a 27-cent underpayment. His firm's behavior was called "harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive" by a judge. One employee of Mnuchin's foreclosure firm admitted robo-signing 6,000 documents a week to be presented as false evidence in court.
Health and Human Services Secretary: Tom Price
Price is obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act, privatizing Medicare, and slashing Medicaid, guaranteeing the loss of health insurance for 22 million, including children and retired people. He's against women's right to choose and LGBTQ health protections. He's a member of the ultra-conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons which aims to keep government fully out of health care.
Education Secretary: Betsy DeVos
A billionaire married to a Amway heir, DeVos dreams of dismantling public schools, while promoting a charter school system with little public accountability that has been a disaster in Detroit. DeVos blamed Michigan workers earning too much for the state's economic problems - which Trump recently repeated in suggesting Detroit jobs should move to states where workers would be paid less. The DeVos family bankrolled campaigns against marriage equality and supporting tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.
Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
Sessions was rejected by GOP as federal judge for his racism and support for "whites-only" voting. He falsely prosecuted black civil rights workers for helping people vote and praised the Supreme Court decision gutting the voting rights law. He opposes equal rights for LGBTQ people and supports mass deportations of immigrants. He's been praised by KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, and called a "hero" by Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.
Secretary of Transportation: Elaine Chao
When she was labor secretary under George W. Bush, Chao opposed increasing the minimum wage and cut enforcement budgets that protect workers on the job and in their paychecks. Some question her willingness to support laws that now require federal contractors on transportation projects to pay fair wages. Plus, Chao has advocated deregulating the fossil fuel industry when we need a transportation system less dependent on climate change-inducing energy sources.
People's Action builds the power of poor and working people, in rural, suburban, and urban areas to win change through issue campaigns and elections.
"Everything I've heard about it, it's a prescription for trouble," the Senate Finance Committee chair said of the House speaker's debt reduction panel.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden on Friday warned that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's commission tasked with reducing the nation's growing debt is a "prescription for trouble" that will likely result in the slashing of vital programs on which tens of millions of Americans rely—including Social Security.
McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently announced the launch of a fiscal commission that will find ways to reduce the national debt—on the heels of striking a deal with President Joe Biden to suspend the nation's borrowing limit until 2025.
While some other leading Republicans have embraced the idea of a commission, many Democrats are wary.
Wyden (D-Ore.), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, toldThe Associated Press that he views the plan as a way for Republicans to rack up "ideological trophies."
"Everything I've heard about it, it's a prescription for trouble," Wyden said, adding that Republicans are "looking at a glide path to reduce benefits."
Biden was loudly booed by GOP lawmakers during his State of the Union address in February when he accused some Republicans of wanting to "sunset" Social Security, prompting McCarthy to shake his head no. A week earlier, McCarthy had asserted that cuts to Social Security and Medicare—each of which serve more than 65 million Americans—were off the table.
However, last month McCarthy alleged that Biden "walled off" cuts to Social Security and Medicare during the debt ceiling talks and said the commission would "look at" reducing funding for both programs.
"I'm going to make some people uncomfortable," the speaker said.
\u201cAfter trying to cut veterans benefits and funding for law enforcement during the debt ceiling negotiations, House Republicans will now create a commission to cut Social Security and Medicare.\n\nIt\u2019s Kevin McCarthy with Pandora\u2019s Box.\u201d— Mondaire Jones (@Mondaire Jones) 1685995803
In response to McCarthy's commission launch, Andrew Bates, the White House deputy press secretary and senior communications adviser, issued a memo warning that Republicans are going after Social Security, despite previous pledges.
"These new statements from the speaker demonstrate that the House GOP are reversing the promise they made to President Biden and the country in the State of the Union, and that to shield billionaires and multinational corporations from paying a cent more in taxes, they very much intend to slash Americans' Medicare and Social Security benefits," Bates wrote.
"The American people—including majorities of conservatives—reject that approach, and support President Biden's work to stand up for the benefits they pay their entire lives to earn," he added.
Advocacy groups also panned the idea of a GOP-led fiscal commission.
"Kevin McCarthy's commission is a scheme to cut Social Security and Medicare behind closed doors," Social Security Workstweeted Friday. "Hands off our earned benefits!"
"By underwriting and investing in new and expanded fossil fuel projects, U.S. insurers are helping Big Oil bring us closer to the worst runaway climate scenarios," said Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
As insurance giants limit coverage in hundreds of disaster-prone areas across the United States, a Senate panel on Friday launched an investigation into seven major carriers' continued backing of planet-heating fossil fuel projects that are driving increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather.
Senate Budget Committee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sent letters to the executives of seven companies—American Insurance Group (AIG), Berkshire Hathaway, Chubb, Liberty Mutual Group, Starr Wright USA, State Farm, and Travelers Insurance—demanding that each firm disclose how it underwrites, invests in, and profits from coal, oil, and gas.
The letters—also signed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), both members of the committee—further ask the companies to explain what plans, if any, they have to reduce, wind down, or eliminate support for current and proposed fossil fuel projects in accordance with the Paris agreement's goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. In addition, the letters seek information about the insurers' climate-related lobbying activities and human rights policies, including methods for securing free, prior, and informed consent from Indigenous communities affected by drilling or pipelines. The companies have until June 23 to respond to the questions.
"By underwriting and investing in new and expanded fossil fuel projects, U.S. insurers are helping Big Oil bring us closer to the worst runaway climate scenarios, which threaten lives, livelihoods, and the federal budget," Whitehouse said in a statement. "This information is especially relevant as some of these companies begin to pull out of certain markets because they see the coming catastrophic climate risks—despite continuing to provide services to the fossil fuel industry."
As The Wall Street Journalreported Thursday, AIG is planning to scale back home insurance sales in roughly 200 ZIP codes around the country at elevated risk of floods or wildfires, affecting parts of Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Montana, New York, and Wyoming.
"The U.S. insurance industry continues to dismiss the urgency of eliminating support for fossil fuel expansion and implementing credible, science-based plans to phase out their underwriting and investments in coal, oil, and gas."
Earlier this year, Farmers Group stopped accepting new applications for home insurance policies in Florida, citing hurricane exposure and soaring rebuilding costs. AIG and Chubb had already begun to restrict coverage in California last year. Two weeks ago, State Farm halted the sale of new residential and commercial property insurance policies in the state. Earlier this week, Allstate confirmed it did the same thing last year.
Unmitigated global warming is fueling larger and more frequent blazes in the U.S. West and elsewhere, intensifying hurricanes and typhoons, and causing sea-level rise, which increases the likelihood of flooding and damaging storm surge events in coastal areas.
With an estimated $582 billion invested in fossil fuels, meanwhile, U.S. insurers are making the problem worse, progressive lawmakers and advocates argue. Despite mounting evidence of the climate emergency's growing toll of death and destruction as well as abundant warnings from scientists who have made clear that exploiting new oil and gas fields is incompatible with preserving a habitable planet, U.S. insurers have yet to rule out support for increased fossil fuel extraction and combustion.
"The U.S. insurance industry continues to dismiss the urgency of eliminating support for fossil fuel expansion and implementing credible, science-based plans to phase out their underwriting and investments in coal, oil, and gas," Deanna Noël, climate campaigns director at Public Citizen, said Friday in a statement.
"AIG executives need only look out the windows of their New York City board rooms to see the realities of an unfolding climate crisis," said Noël, alluding to smoke-filled skies brought about by wildfires still raging in Canada. "Empty climate promises do nothing but set entire regions of the country on course to be deemed too risky to insure and communities everywhere to grapple with an uncertain future. Inaction and inadequate action are unacceptable."
Referring to the budget committee's recent hearings examining how "climate change poses multiple 'systemic risks' to the economy," Whitehouse, Wyden, and Sanders wrote:
Witnesses have warned that sea-level rise and wetter, more intense storms could eventually make more than $1 trillion in coastal real estate uninsurable, and therefore unmortgageable, leading to a coastal property values crash; that more frequent and intense wildfires could result in a similar death spiral for Western property in the wildland-urban interface; that climate-related losses are making it harder for the insurance industry to price risk, already resulting in insolvencies among regional insurers; and that, as demand for oil and gas declines, hundreds of billions of dollars in fossil fuel assets may be stranded (the "carbon bubble"). Each of these disruptions could become "systemic," and more than one could occur simultaneously.
The trio proceeded to ask each company how it "evaluates these climate-related risks, decides to invest in or underwrite fossil fuel expansion projects that drive such risks, and prices policies insuring such projects." As the senators observed, "Underwriting dangerous fossil fuel projects makes it harder to achieve global climate goals, and there is little transparency about how the myriad risks factor into industry decisions."
"Given the threat that climate change poses to both the insurance industry and its policyholders, it is difficult to understand how the industry can carefully price and manage climate risk in some areas of its business while simultaneously having no apparent plan to phase out its underwriting of and investment in the projects and companies generating the emissions that are causing these very harms," the letter says. "Many fossil fuel projects would not be able to move forward without insurance, and all industries and sectors in civil society have a role to play in meeting the United States' international climate goals."
"We were particularly alarmed by the situation of Palestinian human rights defenders," reads the report, "who are routinely subject to a range of punitive measures as part of the occupation regime."
Civil society groups in Israel and Palestine face serious human rights violations by Israeli authorities seeking to perpetuate an illegal occupation and apartheid regime, according to a report published Thursday by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The report—authored by the Independent International Commission Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory—examines "attacks, restrictions, and harassment of civil society actors by all duty bearers," including the Israeli government and occupation forces, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Hamas in Gaza.
"We concluded that all duty bearers are engaged in limiting the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful association," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement. "We were particularly alarmed by the situation of Palestinian human rights defenders, who are routinely subject to a range of punitive measures as part of the occupation regime."
\u201c\ud83d\udea8According to \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf3 UN Commission of Inquiry, rights of civil society members in Israel & OPT are being violated by authorities in all areas through:\n\u27a1\ufe0fharassment\n\u27a1\ufe0fthreats\n\u27a1\ufe0farrests\n\u27a1\ufe0finterrogations\n\u27a1\ufe0farbitrary detention\n\u27a1\ufe0ftorture\n\u27a1\ufe0fdegrading treatment \n\ud83d\udc47\nhttps://t.co/1vFwjdbuBK\u201d— UN Palestinian Rights Committee (@UN Palestinian Rights Committee) 1686247724
The commission found that "the Israeli authorities' silencing of civil society voices that challenge government policies and narrative is intrinsically linked to the goal of ensuring and enshrining the permanent occupation at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people."
"This includes criminalizing Palestinian civil society organizations and their members by labeling them as 'terrorists,' pressuring and threatening institutions that give a platform for civil society discourse, actively lobbying donors, and implementing measures intended to cut sources of funding to civil society," the report states.
According to the publication:
The Israeli authorities' use of anti-terror legislation to categorize civil society organizations as terrorist organizations aims to delegitimize and isolate them and undermine their activity, and to harm their international funding and support. The commission concludes on reasonable grounds that the designations by Israeli authorities of six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations and a seventh Palestinian NGO as unlawful were unjustified, undertaken to silence civil society voices, and violate human rights, including freedom of association, freedom of expression and opinion, and the rights to peaceful assembly, to privacy, and to fair trial.
Israeli officials claim the six humanitarian groups—Addameer, AlHaq, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International—Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees—have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular political movement with an armed wing that has carried out resistance attacks against Israel. The groups deny the accusation, and a probe by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency found no evidence supporting Israel's claim.
The report further states that "Israeli authorities are increasingly using surveillance to monitor the activities of human rights defenders, including through spyware planted on mobile phones," including by planting Pegasus spyware manufactured by the Israeli company NSO Group on the phones of Palestinian human rights workers and Israeli activists participating in 2020 protests against the last Netanyahu government.
A section of the report on the far-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu notes:
In late 2022, a new government in Israel was sworn in, with a stated mission of weakening the judiciary and increasing government control of the media and freedom of expression, which would have a significant impact on civil society in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In February 2023, the government started enacting new legislation to weaken judicial independence amid large-scale countrywide demonstrations. The proposed changes would dismantle fundamental features of the separation of powers and of the checks and balances essential in democratic political systems. Legal experts have warned that they risk weakening human rights protections, especially for the most vulnerable and disfavored communities, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, asylum-seekers, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons.
The report states that Israeli authorities are subjecting both Israeli and Palestinian journalists to monitoring and harassment, with Palestinians being "particularly targeted" for intimidation, "attacks, arrests, detention, and accusations of incitement to violence, seemingly as part of an effort to deter them from continuing their work."
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Israeli forces have killed 20 journalists this century, with none of the killers ever facing prosecution. These include at least one U.S. citizen, Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead by an Israeli sniper while covering a May 2022 raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Al Jazeera producer Ali Samodi was shot in the back but survived. An independent international probe subsequently concluded that Abu Akleh's "extrajudicial killing" was "deliberate."
On Wednesday, 22-year-old Palestinian photojournalist Momen Samreen, who was covering Israeli forces' demolition of a suspected Palestinian militant's family home—an illegal act of collective punishment—was shot in the head with a "less-lethal" projectile and was hospitalized in serious condition.
\u201c\ud83d\udea8Breaking news:\n\n A Palestinian journalist in full uniform, Momen Samreen, was deliberately shot in the head by Israeli occupation forces, during his work in Ramallah. His condition is serious!\n\nMomen is a very known journalist & works with various Palestinian media outlets\u201d— Younis | \u064a\u0648\u0646\u0633 (@Younis | \u064a\u0648\u0646\u0633) 1686183857
The Israeli government—which maintains that the commission of inquiry "has no legitimacy"—rejected the report's findings. Israel's U.N. mission in Switzerland said that "Israel has a robust and independent civil society which is composed of thousands of NGOs, human rights defenders, [and] national and international media outlets, that can operate freely."
The report also states that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are targeting human rights defenders "with the aim of silencing dissenting opinions," and that activists, journalists, and others have been harassed, intimidated, and in some cases arbitrarily arrested and jailed.
"The commission has received information on the use of torture and ill-treatment to punish and intimidate critics and opponents by internal security officials in Gaza and intelligence services, preventive security officials, and law enforcement officials in the West Bank," the report says. "The frequency and severity, and the absence of accountability, suggest that such cases are widespread."