'Landslide Victory' for Climate as G20 Leaders (Minus Trump) Affirm Paris Accord

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by Jake Johnson, staff writer 

www.commondreams.org

'Landslide Victory' for Climate as G20 Leaders (Minus Trump) Affirm Paris Accord 

"Donald Trump is learning the hard way that he cannot thwart the entire world on climate change and expect to continue with business as usual."

 

Following contentious negotiations that extended into the final day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, 19 of the 20 world leaders present—the one outlier being U.S. President Donald Trump—affirmed in a statement (pdf) on Saturday their "strong commitment" to combating climate change and called the guidelines laid out in the Paris climate accord "irreversible."

"Trump's historically irresponsible decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement has left the U.S. isolated on the world stage." 

—Michael Brune, Sierra Club

In addition, the official communique included language acknowledging Trump's decision last month to withdraw the the U.S. from the Paris agreement—a move that was widely denounced as "stupid and reckless."

"The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs," the document reads.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a press conference that she "deplored" Trump's decision to withdraw from the accord, adding: "I think it's very clear that we could not reach consensus, but the differences were not papered over, they were clearly stated."

"It's absolutely clear it is not a common position," Merkel said of Trump's view of the Paris agreement. The U.S., Syria, and Nicaragua are the only countries in the world that have rejected the accord.

Environmental groups and climate activists celebrated the world leaders' reaffirmation of their commitment to fighting climate change and hailed the communique as a step in the right direction.

Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, called the final statement "a landslide victory for countries voicing support for global climate action."

"Donald Trump is learning the hard way that he cannot thwart the entire world on climate change and expect to continue with business as usual," added Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

He continued:

Trump's historically irresponsible decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement has left the U.S. isolated on the world stage. The other 19 leaders of the world's largest economies stood shoulder to shoulder in unified support for the Paris Agreement. Given the choice between following Trump or standing strong for climate action, not a single world leader decided to back him. That's unprecedented, and it shows how deeply unpopular and misguided Trump's attack on the Paris Agreement has been, and how much damage it has done to U.S. credibility and standing in the world.

Christian Aid's international climate lead Mohamed Adow slammed Trump for keeping "his head buried in the sand."

"The U.S. president's weak attempts to capsize the climate movement have failed: he is now marooned on a political island of his own making," Adow concluded. "Meanwhile the rest of the world is moving ahead."

But while they applauded world leaders for coming together to assert the necessity of fighting climate change, environmentalists were quick to emphasize that the Paris accord "is not enough." As Oil Change International senior campaigner Alex Doukas put it, "talk is cheap."

"The G19 should have committed to accelerate the transformation away from coal, oil, and gas," said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, in a statement. "If Paris was the starting point, Hamburg must sow the seeds of much greater ambition."

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'Macron, You're Screwed': Tens of Thousands March in France Against Anti-Worker Reforms

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by Jake Johnson, staff writer, September 12, 2017

www.commondreams.org

'Macron, You're Screwed': Tens of Thousands March in France Against Anti-Worker Reforms

"My grandparents and great-grandparents fought to have social security, to get rights which are now being stripped away."

As French President Emmanuel Macron seeks to ram through pro-business labor reforms that would weaken the bargaining power of workers and make it easier for companies to fire employees, tens of thousands of workers and students took to the streets across France Tuesday to express their opposition to Macron's agenda.

"We're not expecting the 12th to be a tidal wave, we see it more as a starting point." 

—Stéphane Enjarlan, Solidaires

Led by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), France's second largest trade union, demonstrators flooded Paris and other major cities chanting: "Macron you're screwed, the slackers are in the streets."

The "slackers" label came from Macron himself, who in a recent speech vowed to not "give any ground [on his labor reforms], not to slackers, nor cynics, nor hardliners."

Union leaders and France's left opposition seized upon Macron's comments and used them to rally workers ahead of Tuesday's planned actions, which included around 180 protests and 4,000 strikes—the first nationwide demonstrations of Macron's young presidency.

In an interview on Monday, former Socialist Party presidential candidate Benoit Hamon slammed Macron's "slacker" remarks as "insulting" to French workers.

"Lazy people are the independently wealthy, who don't need to work for a living," Hamon retorted. "And a lot of independently wealthy picked Emmanuel Macron as their champion."

Many have criticized Macron's "fast-track" approach to passing the deeply unpopular reforms, which are expected to be finalized later this month. As the Guardian noted on Tuesday, the labor law changes are being "pushed through parliament with record speed using executive orders."

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, former presidential candidate and leader of the left party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), likened Macron's reforms to "a social coup d'état," and predicted Macron will ultimately "give way" to the opposition.

"My grandparents and great-grandparents fought to have social security, to get rights which are now being stripped away." 

—Valérie

"France isn't England," Mélenchon concluded.

Protestors also called attention to other pro-business elements of Macron's agenda, including tax cuts for the wealthy, changes to unemployment insurance, and pension reform.

"We don't want protections stripped away so people are forced into precarious, low-wage jobs like they are in Britain or Germany," Valérie, a health assistant from outside Paris, told the Guardian. "My grandparents and great-grandparents fought to have social security, to get rights which are now being stripped away. This is about protecting the French social model."

Overall, the demonstrations and strikes brought as many as 100,000 people into the streets in provincial France and over 60,000 in Paris, leading the CGT to declare the day of action a success.

But as Stéphane Enjarlan, national secretary and spokesperson for Solidaires, a group of unions that backed Tuesday's demonstrations, said in an interview with Jacobin, the protests are only the beginning of a long struggle.

"We're not expecting the 12th to be a tidal wave, we see it more as a starting point," Enjarlan concluded. "And we know that this needs to continue in the long-term."

Watch a video of a protest that took place in Chambéry, France: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=Oa4qwccZzo8

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'Morally Bankrupt' Budget: After $1.5 Trillion Gift to Rich, Trump Demands $1.7 Trillion in Safety Net Cuts

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by Jake Johnson, staff writer

www.commondreams.org

'Morally Bankrupt' Budget: After $1.5 Trillion Gift to Rich, Trump Demands $1.7 Trillion in Safety Net Cuts

"Millions of Americans will lose access to life-saving programs because the GOP gave $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the rich."

Those wondering how President Donald Trump plans to pay for the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for the rich he signed into law last year got their answer on Monday, when the White House unveiled its 2019 budget (pdf) blueprint that calls for $1.7 trillion in cuts to crucial safety net programs over the next decade—including $237 billion in cuts to Medicare alone.

"Millions of Americans will lose access to life-saving programs because the GOP gave $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the rich."

—Tax MarchWhile imposing "severe austerity" on domestic programs that primarily benefit poor and middle class Americans, Trump's proposal also aims to hike the Pentagon's budget to $716 billion—a seven percent increase from his 2018 request—and provide $18 billion for "the wall."

"The Trump budget is morally bankrupt and bad economic policy," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter Monday shortly after the White House proposal was made public.

    Trump's proposed FY19 budget is out. Over 10 years:

    - $300+ billion cut to Medicaid

    - $213 billion cut to SNAP

    - $21 billion cut to TANF

    - $72 billion cut to disability programs

    - eliminates Social Svcs Block Grant (helps pay for child care and foster care) 1/

    — Chad Bolt (@chadderr) February 12, 2018

    Trump's budget will include over $200 billion in cuts to food stamps. We can afford a trillion dollars in tax cuts for CORPORATIONS, but must cut food stamps. Got it.

    — Michael Linden (@MichaelSLinden) February 12, 2018

Critics were quick to note that such severe cuts to healthcare programs that serve the elderly, the disabled, and the poor will likely come "with a body count."

"Millions of Americans will lose access to life-saving programs because the GOP gave $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the rich," the advocacy group Tax March wrote on Twitter.

    Almost the exact same size as the massive handout the GOP just gave their billionaire donors. #HandsOff https://t.co/AE58kPCwVu

    — SocialSecurityWorks (@SSWorks) February 12, 2018

In addition to calling for potentially devastating cuts to healthcare, food stamps, and other components of America's already-withering safety net, Trump's budget also calls for large cuts to environmental programs—including $598.5 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"President Trump's budget is nothing short of devastating for all Americans who value clean air, safe drinking water, and protected public lands," Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement on Monday.

Though presidential budget requests are non-binding, they are a strong indicator of the White House's goals and values, as Indivisible's senior policy manager Chad Bolt observed while analyzing the newly released document.

Trump's "budget proposal is just a proposal, but it's a clear statement of his priorities," Bolt noted. "Making deep cuts to programs families rely on has been a priority since Day 1."

    After giving massive tax cuts to billionaires, President Trump’s disgraceful budget slashes Medicaid, Medicare, nutrition assistance, heating assistance & attempts yet again to repeal the ACA. This Robin-Hood-in-reverse agenda is the last thing American families need. #HandsOff https://t.co/csk2gSnUsA

    — Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) February 12, 2018

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'New Step in Long Walk to Freedom': Palestinian Prisoners Launch Mass Hunger Strike

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by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer April 17, 2017

www.commondreams.org

'New Step in Long Walk to Freedom': Palestinian Prisoners Launch Mass Hunger Strike

As many as 1,500 political detainees are taking part in the demonstration demanding 'freedom and dignity'

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday, protesting dismal conditions as well as "Israel's inhumane system of colonial and military occupation."

Some said as many as 1,500 political prisoners in six jails across Israel were participating in the open-ended strike, commemorating Palestinian Prisoners' Day and coming ahead of June's 50-year anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, when the occupation began. Solidarity rallies were also taking place in the occupied cities of Ramallah, Hebron, and Nablus.

According to the human rights and prisoner advocacy organization Addameer, which is urging global solidarity with the detainees, "the hunger striking prisoners' demands include: family visits, proper medical care, end to Israel's practice of detaining Palestinians without charge or trial in so-called administrative detention, and stopping the use of isolation."

Palestinian movement leader and longtime prisoner Marwan Barghouti, who initiated the call to strike, explained his reasoning in a New York Times op-ed published Sunday.

"Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance," he wrote. "Israel's courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to the [U.S.] State Department, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military courts is nearly 90 percent."

Barghouti continued:

Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.

Instead, though, Israel's prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners' movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.

"Ahmed," a 32-year-old from Hebron currently held in administrative detention in Ketziot prison in the Negev desert, told Amnesty International that he was joining the mass hunger strike in the hope that it will pressure the authorities to allow his 70-year-old mother, who has been repeatedly denied a permit, to visit him. Ahmed, who said he'd been arrested seven times in total, has spent a cumulative five and a half years in an Israeli prison—but has only had one family visit in that time.

"In 2006 my mother and father were able to visit me because my father was sick," Ahmed told Amnesty for its report released Monday. "He was 75 then, it was the last time I saw him. He died while I was in prison." 

Now, he said, his mother is being denied a visitation permit. "The Israeli authorities are using the permits to punish me," Ahmed said. "I don't know how long [my mother] has [left] and if I will be able to see her if or when I am released."

Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty, declared: "Israel's ruthless policy of holding Palestinian prisoners arrested in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in prisons inside Israel is a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is unlawful and cruel and the consequences for the imprisoned person and their loved ones, who are often deprived from seeing them for months, and at times for years on end, can be devastating."

The mass action, described as one of the largest in recent years, also has widespread political support.

"On this day, we are reminded of the pain of imprisonment, the cruelty of the occupation, and the injustice of the prison cells, as we are reminded of our pride in your steadfastness and sacrifice," Palestinian Authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah said in a recorded video message shared on his Twitter page. "In the midst of this battle I call on all the Palestinian people and national institutions to show more solidarity so we can deliver the message of the prisoners to the whole world. Let us all push for the largest international, popular, and official movement to stand by the prisoners in this critical time."

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'Obscene': 70 Top Healthcare CEOs Raked in $9.8 Billion Since 2010

Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News

Jake Johnson, staff writer, July 24, 2017

commondreams.org

'Obscene': 70 Top Healthcare CEOs Raked in $9.8 Billion Since 2010

"The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day."

While the Senate GOP's plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been denounced as potentially devastating to the poor, the sick, women, people of color, children, and those with pre-existing conditions, a new analysis published Monday finds that no matter what happens, the CEOs of large healthcare companies are likely to continue living lavishly.

"The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day."

—Bob Herman, Axios

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010, the "CEOs of 70 of the largest U.S. healthcare companies cumulatively have earned $9.8 billion," according to a report by Axios's Bob Herman.

Herman goes on to add that the CEOs' earnings "far outstrip[ped] the wage growth of nearly all Americans."

"The richest year [for healthcare CEOs] was 2015, when 70 healthcare CEOs collectively made $2 billion," Herman notes. "That was an average of about $28.5 million per CEO and a median of about $17.3 million per CEO. The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day."

John Martin, former CEO of the pharma giant Gilead Sciences, topped Axios's list: he pulled in $863 million in the "ACA era."

    CEOs of 70 of the largest US health care companies have earned $9.8 billion in the seven years since ACA was passed https://t.co/1VBAavfiWZ pic.twitter.com/aeXbUmtW4j

    — Axios (@axios) July 24, 2017

Despite President Donald Trump's repeated insistence that Obamacare has been a "nightmare" and that the entire system is collapsing, Herman observes, "The ACA has not hurt the healthcare industry. Stock prices have boomed, and CEOs took home nearly 11 percent more money on average every year since 2010." And the Senate GOP's alternative, which Trump has enthusiastically endorsed, would likely be a further boon to industry executives, who would stand to benefit from the bill's massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Axios's analysis focused on 70 of the largest publicly traded healthcare companies—including some of the largest insurance and pharmaceutical companies—in the United States.

Perhaps the most consequential component of healthcare CEO pay, Herman observes, is the fact that "a gigantic portion of what CEOs make comes in the form of vested stock, and those incentives drive their decision-making."

This means that CEOs are incentivized not to take actions that would benefit the healthcare system overall, but rather to "inflate stock prices" using methods "such as repurchasing shares or issuing dividends to shareholders."

Such moves lead to higher salaries for CEOs, but not to widely shared benefits.

"Stock-heavy pay," Herman concludes, "drives CEOs to do the exact opposite of their buzzword-laden goals of creating a 'patient-centered' health system that focuses on 'value.'"

Some commentators portrayed the analysis as both indicative of the fundamental injustice at the heart of the for-profit insurance model and proof of the need for Medicare for All.

    The central healthcare initiative of the Dem Party is a policy that effectively subsidizes the pay of these execs https://t.co/briYBbU5EG

    — David Sirota (@davidsirota) July 24, 2017

    But how could we possibly afford a Medicare for all system? https://t.co/jynH0yollk pic.twitter.com/rIY8mRSlAa

    — Billy Gendell (@billygendell) July 24, 2017

    This is obscene. https://t.co/6jhmSs5eG2 pic.twitter.com/q2y37631EW

    — Michael Kelly (@MichaelEdKelly) July 24, 2017

    Time for single payer. https://t.co/RtvWwhYCh5

    — Suzanne C-J (@barefootswan) July 24, 2017

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