Time to Change America

What these seven suggestions really amount to is rejecting a militarized mindset of aggression and a corporate mindset of exploitation for one that sees humanity and this planet more holistically.

Bracing Views

00EARTHRISE1-superJumbo There’s only one Spaceship Earth

W.J. Astore

In my latest article for TomDispatch.com, I argue that the coronavirus crisis provides an opportunity to reimagine America.  Please read the entire article at TomDispatch; what follows is an extended excerpt.  Thanks!

This should be a time for a genuinely new approach, one fit for a world of rising disruption and disaster, one that would define a new, more democratic, less bellicose America. To that end, here are seven suggestions, focusing — since I’m a retired military officer — mainly on the U.S. military, a subject that continues to preoccupy me, especially since, at present, that military and the rest of the national security state swallow up roughly 60% of federal discretionary spending:

1. If ever there was a time to reduce our massive and wasteful military spending, this is it. There was never, for example, any sense in investing up to…

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Russia Is Responding Better Than Everyone Else to World War C

Putin’s generous socio-economic support package aimed at preventing economic suffering Coronavirus lockdowns causing elsewhere:

“1. Nationwide paid leave starting week commencing March 28

2. The vote on constitutional changes has been postponed from April 22 until further notice

3. All social benefits are to be extended automatically, no documentation required

4. All families that qualify for maternity benefits are to get an additional 5,000 rubles (ca. $63) monthly for each child under 3 for the next three months starting from April, 2020.

5. All employees on sick leave will not have their pay reduced below the minimum wage – this provision will last through 2020

6. The new maximum unemployment benefit pay will be set at 12,130 rubles (ca. $154)

7. All private loans and mortgage payments are to be frozen for borrowers who provide evidence of a more than 30% decline in the ability to repay (failure of business, salary-related issues, etc.)

8. Concerning businesses suffering through the COVID-19 outbreak, the new measures are as follows:

* Small and midsize businesses: tax payments – aside from value added tax – are to be postponed for six months.

* Microbusinesses: an additional postponing of insurance payments for six months.

9. A six-month delay in loan payments for all small and midsize businesses

10. Additional measures for strengthening small businesses are to be introduced

11. A six month moratorium on bankruptcy claims for businesses operating in areas hardest hit by the outbreak

12. Dividend tax rate is to indefinitely be increased to 15 percent in case of money taken out of the country

13. Returns on each personal investment, including bank deposits and stocks exceeding the total sum of 1 million rubles (ca. $12,600), are to indefinitely be taxed 13 percent”

Astute News

The largest country in the world is faring surprisingly well when it comes to surviving World War C, which is greatly attributable to Russia’s proactive measures in taking COVID-19 as serious as possible, including through border closures and the forthcoming imposition of what can be described as “lockdown-lite”.

***

Ahead Of The Curve

World War C has taken the planet by storm and is set to continue wreaking havoc across the world, but one country has thus far largely avoided the disastrous socio-economic consequences of COVID-19. Russia is faring surprisingly well when it comes to surviving this crisis, which is greatly attributable to its proactive measures in taking this pandemic as seriously as possible. It was one of the first countries to curtail the entry of Chinese citizens, as elaborated upon by the author in his piece last month titled “Russia Bans Most Chinese From Entry: ‘Pure Racism’ Or…

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Young Carers: Shameful Symptom of Austerity and Social Decay

Young Carers: Looking After Mum

Real Stories (2017)

Film Review

This documentary profiles three British young carers. According to the Carers Trust, a young carer is someone under 18 who looks after family members who are ill, disabled or misuse drugs or alcohol. When large numbers of children grow up looking after parents, you know something is terribly wrong with the social safety net. Although the problem is comparable, if not worse, in the US, it’s a totally taboo topic in the mainstream media.

The first two young carers are girls, age 12 and 9, who look after their four younger brothers because their parents are legally blind. The two girls are responsible for feeding, diapering, and dressing their two youngest brothers, as well as shopping (the 12-year-old uses her bike for transportation), meal preparation, laundry, and first aid. On school days, the two youngest remain in dirty nappies until their sisters return from school.

Although the 12-year-old has a very stoic demeanor, she’s very definite about not wanting children of her own. The 9-year-old, who is openly tearful and depressed, made a suicide attempt a year ago.

The parents’ total lack of insight into their daughters’ distress is heart breaking. The only opportunity the girls have to play with other kids is Saturday afternoon outings organized by the Carers Trust.

The third young carer is a 14-year-old boy whose mother suffers from depression and fibromyalgia. Because she’s bedridden much of the time, he prepares most of the meals and does the cleaning, laundry, and ironing.

According to the Carers Trust, there are 175,000 child carers in the UK.

 

 

Amazon Workers International: Common Statement

We, Amazon workers from across the world, will not remain silent while our bosses‘ greed and governments‘ cowardice endangers us all. We call on workers everywhere to stay safe and practice social distancing, but, at the same time, to organize, protest, and be prepared to fight back!

amazing workers

While the Corona pandemic has already killed thousands of people and will kill many more, Amazon warehouses continue to operate 24/7. Governments around the world order social distancing, but at the same time they force workers to continue to work. Amazon packages flow through cities that, due to the high spread of the virus, have been sealed off from the rest of the world. In countries where the public is prohibited from gathering, Amazon is allowed to operate as a “state within the state”, free to endanger and exploit us, while we continue to work by the thousands in enclosed spaces. Subcontracted truck drivers and couriers – the veins of our global economy – move the virus between warehouses. Uncountable totes pass between worker hands and facilities. In effect, Amazon forces workers to risk infecting each other and then bringing the virus home to our families, allowing for its further…

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Assange Calls Yanis Varouvakis from Prison

By Yanis Varouvakis

DiEM25

Last night, immediately after our first DiEM25 TV event, my phone rang. It was Julian. From prison. It was not that first time that he honoured me deeply by using the few phone calls prison allows him to make to call me. Like every other such occasion, when I unexpectedly recognise his voice a torrent of emotions comes flooding in. Guilt, primarily, at the thought that, the moment the line is disconnected, he will remain there – in the exceedingly dark place to which he has been confined because of a decision he made long ago to help the rest of us grasp what the powers-that-be have been doing on our behalf without our knowledge or consent.

Julian wanted to talk about the effects of Covid-19 on the world we live in and, of course, on his case. He remarked that Jeremy Corbyn’s election manifesto, that the establishment had lambasted for being too radical, now seems unreasonable moderate. We laughed at the audacity of those who were telling the people of Britain that it was irresponsible to spend a few tens billions on providing proper funding to the NHS and social care for all, on turning broadband into a public utility, and on taking the railways into public ownership to make them work properly – the very same people who, now that big business and capitalism more generally, are in serious trouble seem to have discovered the money tree, announcing trillions to be pumped into the economy. Julian did not know (how could he, when the prison authorities deny him access to newspapers, the internet, even to BBC Radio 4?) that Boris Johnson had, earlier yesterday, announced the temporary nationalisation of the railways – seeing that privateers can never provide a decent service in the midst of a national emergency.

After a few minutes during which we allowed ourselves to bask in the neoliberals’ Waterloo, in the hands of some RNA that the system could simply not cope with without abandoning all its certainties, we discussed what this means for the future. Julian said, quite correctly, that this new phase of the crisis is, at the very least, making it clear to us that anything goes – that everything is now possible. To which I added that anything ranges from the best to the worst possible developments. Whether the epidemic helps deliver the good or the most evil society will depend, of course, on us – on whether progressives manage to band together. For if we do not, just like in 2008 we did not, the bankers, the spivs, the oligarchs and the neofascists will prove, again, that they are the ones who know how not to let a good crisis go to waste.

Will we succeed? Julian had a hopeful comment on this: At the very least, transnational organisations like Wikileaks and DiEM25 had honed the digital tools for online debates and campaigns well before Covid-19 came on the scene. In some measure, we are better prepared than others […]

Via https://www.yanisvaroufakis.eu/2020/03/24/last-night-julian-assange-called-me-here-is-what-we-talked-about/

 

Trump’s Narcoterrorism Indictment Against Maduro Already Backfires

By Leonardo Flores, Popular Resistance.

For twenty years, right-wing extremists in Miami and Washington have been slandering the Venezuelan government, accusing it of drug trafficking and harboring terrorists without ever offering even a shred of evidence. They finally got their wish on Thursday, when the U.S. Department of Justice unveiled indictments against President Nicolás Maduro and 13 other current or former members of Venezuela’s government and military. In addition to the indictments, Attorney General William Barr offered a $15 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Maduro, as well as $10 million rewards for Diosdado Cabello (president of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly), Tarek El Aissami (vice president for the economy), Hugo Carvajal (former director of military intelligence) and Cliver Alcalá (retired general).

The indictment has backfired already. Hours after the announcement, Alcalá posted videos online that threaten to cause further splits in the opposition and could result in the arrest of Juan Guaidó. Before going into those details, however, it’s important to understand just how politically biased the charges are against Maduro et al.

The myth that Venezuela is a narco-state has already been debunked by the Washington Office in Latin America, a think tank in Washington that supports regime change, as well as by FAIR, 15 y Último, Misión Verdad, Venezuelanalysis and others. It cannot be denied that Venezuela is a transit country for cocaine, but as the maps above and below show, less than 7% of total drug movement from South America transits from Venezuela (the Eastern Caribbean region includes Colombia’s Guajira Peninsula). These maps, produced by the Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Southern Command, respectively, immediately raise questions as to why Venezuela is the country being targeted.

Maritime drug flows from South America in 2017. Photo: Adam Isaacson.

Of course, the charges have nothing to do with the drug trade; they are the latest escalation in the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure March.” The pretext is an alleged plot by the Venezuelan government to flood the United States with “somewhere between 200-250 metric tons of cocaine.” Although that figure might seem high, it’s important to understand the context. The United States is the world’s biggest consumer of cocaine and Colombia is the world’s biggest producer. On the other hand, Venezuela does not cultivate coca, does not produce cocaine and, according to the U.S. government’s own figures, less than 10% of global cocaine traffic transits through the country.

[…]

The U.S double standard about narco-states is not limited to Colombia. Honduras’s U.S.-backed president, Juan Orlando Hernández, was linked to drug trafficking in a U.S. court, yet this news did not warrant a major announcement by the DOJ, presumably because Hernández is a U.S. ally. Another U.S. ally, Guatemala, had six times as much cocaine flow through its territory as Venezuela.

[…]

Yet the Trump administration appears to have made a serious miscalculation by including the retired General Alcalá in the indictments. A former ally of ex-president Hugo Chávez, Alcalá joined the opposition in 2015 and has been linked to various coup plots and planned terror attacks since 2016. He is the highest profile former officer to turn against Maduro and is considered the “leader of pro-Guaidó military personnel.” Alcalá is now wanted both by the United States and by Venezuela.

Alcalá is implicated in a recent plot to attack the Maduro government. On March 24, Colombian authorities seized a truck full of weapons and military equipment, including 26 assault rifles, worth $500,000. Venezuelan intelligence services linked the weapons to three camps in Colombia where paramilitary groups of Venezuelan deserters and U.S. mercenaries are training to carry out attacks against Venezuela. According to Venezuela’s Communication Minister Jorge Rodríguez, these groups were planning to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to attack military units and plant bombs. He also linked the groups to Alcalá.

These allegations proved to be correct, as Alcalá, in a video he posted online hours after the indictments, admitted that the weapons were under his command. He further admitted that the weapons were purchased with funds given to him by Juan Guaidó, with whom he allegedly signed a contract.  Additionally, Alcala claimed that the operation was planned by U.S. advisors, with whom he supposedly met at least seven times. Aclalá also alleged that Leopoldo López, the founder of Guaidó’s party Voluntad Popular who was sprung from house arrest during Guaidó’s April 30 attempted insurrection, had full knowledge of the terror plot.

As a result of these videos, Venezuela’s Attorney General has opened an investigation into Juan Guaidó for an attempted coup. Despite Guaidó’s self-proclamation as president in January 2019, his attempted insurrection in April 2019, his repeated calls for sanctions and a military invasion, Venezuelan authorities had refrained from moving against him. The U.S. indictments appear to have caused the Venezuelan government to issue its strongest response to the Trump administration’s and Guaidó’s continued provocations.

[…]

Via https://popularresistance.org/trumps-narcoterrorism-indictment-of-maduro-already-backfires/

 

Amazon’s Alexa now offering to diagnose coronavirus

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By Helen Buyniski | RT | March 28, 2020

Amazon’s Alexa AI assistant can now evaluate coronavirus symptoms and recommend testing for US users – testing it profits from and hopes to roll out nationwide. Will it report ‘dry coughs’ to the proper authorities, too?

‘Doctor’ Alexa is making house calls, Amazon has revealed, boasting its voice assistant now allows users to check their “risk level” for coronavirus in a blog post on Thursday. Users concerned they might have the virus can confide in Alexa, who will inquire about symptoms, travel history, and other routes of possible exposure before making recommendations based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

This innovation would be less unsettling if Amazon didn’t have a massive financial interest in keeping the coronavirus panic and pandemic going as long as possible. Government-mandated shutdowns of “nonessential businesses” have triggered soaring demand for its e-commerce services as brick-and-mortar shops are forced to close their doors, and customers are far less likely to venture out even to the supermarket if their virtual assistant is telling them they might have coronavirus.

In an even more blatant conflict of interest, Amazon is piloting a Covid-19 testing program in the Seattle area, delivering testing kits to residents as part of a private-sector health study. While it’s the Bill Gates Foundation and other NGOs, not Seattle residents, who are paying for the testing kits, each one distributed is still more money in the already-bottomless pockets of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s second richest man (Gates, incidentally, is the richest). Alexa would be a traitor to her master if she didn’t recommend as many Americans be tested as possible.

And Seattle will soon be joined by the rest of the country, if Bezos has his way. The e-commerce tycoon hinted on Thursday that Amazon might be distributing tests on a wider basis after speaking with World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Amazon is already offering such a test in the UK, though diagnosis-by-Alexa is not yet available there. The WHO has urged the US to ramp up testing, which still lags woefully behind other countries, but the US seems to be unique in the manner in which that testing is being taken over by private companies eager to grab their piece of the coronavirus pie.

Worse than the financial conflicts of interest, however, is Alexa’s legendary reputation for snooping. Already, as quarantines have mandated professionals in most jobs work from home, those whose work depends on confidentiality – lawyers, for example – are being advised to deactivate their digital assistants while working from quarantine. It’s not paranoia – devices like Alexa, Siri and Google Home “accidentally” start recording unbidden as many as 19 times per day, according to a study published last month – long after Amazon, Apple, and Google had promised reforms to their privacy policies when the extent of their nonconsensual snooping was revealed.

Which brings up a whole new realm of concern with regard to the coronavirus: if Alexa hears you cough, and decides it’s a “dry cough” like we are told coronavirus produces, will she report you to medical authorities for extra surveillance to make sure you’re obeying quarantine religiously? Will she rat you out if she hears the front door close despite a shelter-in-place order, perhaps interfacing with your Amazon Ring doorbell to send footage of you leaving to authorities so they can arrest you before you come into contact with others? It may sound over-the-top, but Alexa has been calling the cops on presumed criminals since at least 2017, when a shouting match between a New Mexico couple turned physical only after the device quietly summoned police […]

via Amazon’s Alexa now offering to diagnose coronavirus