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March 2020

On The Front Line Of COVID-19: Doctor Calls For System Change

New York is the area hardest hit by the coronavirus currently in the United States with over 60,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths, ranking it as the sixth highest number of cases in the world. The area in and around New York City has the most cases. Governor Cuomo is scrambling for hospital beds and equipment. The Army Corps of Engineers has been called in to convert convention centers and other large spaces into temporary hospitals. A naval hospital ship is heading up from southern Virginia to provide support. The city is bringing in refrigerated trucks to store dead bodies and China is sending planeloads of medical supplies. We speak with Dr. Mike Pappas, who is working on the front line of this crisis about COVID-19, how health professionals are handling it, how it is exposing the flaws in our healthcare and economic systems and what systems would protect people.

On Strike Now For Three Years, Spectrum Workers Are Demanding Public Ownership

Cable technician Troy Walcott, along with 1,800 of his fellow members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3, has been striking for three years, and there’s still no end in sight. Local 3 first walked off the job in March 2017 when their employer, Spectrum/Charter Communications — the largest provider of cable TV, internet and telephone service in New York State and the second-largest cable provider in the country...

Italy Calls General Strike: ‘Our Lives Are Worth More Than Your Profits’

Italy is the global epicenter of the pandemic, with more than 64,000 cases of infection and almost 7,000 deaths, half of which occurred in the last week. This is the result of both neoliberal austerity measures that defunded healthcare in Italy and the criminal negligence of the EU.  In the context of the pandemic, a quarantine was imposed throughout the country. Not only have nearly all shops been closed, but people are not allowed to stray too far from their homes. Just this week, videos of mayors yelling at their constituents to go home went viral.  Yet, non-essential production has still not been shut down in Italy. Millions of workers continue to go to work every day, exposing themselves to infection in public transport, in factories, workshops, and offices.  At the same time, the workers’ rebellion is growing.

Private Hospitals Will Be Made Public For Duration Of Coronavirus Pandemic

Some 2,000 beds, nine laboratories and thousands of staff have been drafted into the public system, Leo Varadkar said at a press conference today. Speaking at the same press conference, Health Minister Simon Harris said “there can be no room for public versus private” when responding to the Covid-19 crisis. “We must of course have equality of treatment, patients with this virus will be treated for free, and they’ll be treated as part of a single, national hospital service. “For the duration of this crisis the State will take control of all private hospital facilities and manage all of the resources for the common benefit of all of our people. There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic,” Harris said. A further 219 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland last night, bringing the total number of cases here to 1,125.

US Foreign Policy Is Becoming Unhinged

The Trump administration is reacting to the pandemic stress by lashing out at perceived internal and external enemies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leading the external onslaught. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an "immediate global ceasefire" to focus on fighting Covid-19. He has appealed for the "waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries' capacity to respond to the pandemic." But Washington is not listening. Requests from Venezuela and Iran for emergency IMF loans to buy medical supplies were blocked by U.S. interventions. Just a month ago Pompeo announced an increase of sanctions against Iran. The sanctions block money transfers. They make it impossible for Iran to import the medical equipment it urgently needs to counter the epidemic.

Media Struggle To Defend Washington’s Cruelty Toward Venezuela And Iran

The request was not much of an “about-face” for Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, because it was the same type of disaster relief loan the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave to Ecuador in 2016 under former President Rafael Correa, another blunt IMF critic, after a massive earthquake. The loan was not one of the IMF’s infamous “structural adjustment loans” that impose a menu of right-wing economic policies such as tax cuts for the rich, privatization of state assets and public sector lay-offs. The IMF’s rejection of the $5 billion emergency loan for Venezuela is, all by itself, justification for Maduro’s “assassin” and “tool of US imperialism” charges against the fund. The IMF said that it refused the loan because “there is no clarity” on whether the “international community” recognizes Maduro’s government.

Coronavirus In Gaza: Just 40 ICU Beds For Two Million People Under Siege

Hospitals all over the western world are bracing for a tsunami of intensely ill patients suffering from breathing difficulties due to the Coronavirus. In Britain, car companies are scrambling to produce ventilators. Plans are being laid for the army to build hospitals in conference centres. In Ontario, Canada, wards are being cleared, plans are being laid, models of infection are being scrutinised. If 70 percent of the population does not cut its social engagement by 70 percent, locking down will not work. Nerves are jangling. So what do you think it is like in Gaza? This is not a question heard often these days, when Palestinians have been dropped off the international agenda, either as refugees or as people. What do you think the prospect is for a besieged enclave that has 56 ventilators and 40 intensive care beds for a population of two million?

VA Privatization Leaves Veterans Waist Deep In Another Big Muddy

Two years ago, President Trump persuaded a bipartisan coalition in Congress to pass the VA MISSION Act of 2018. It authorized a costly expansion of outsourcing by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which provides healthcare for nine million former military personnel. Under the guise of giving VA patients more “choice” and speeding up their doctor appointments and hospital treatment, the Trump Administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on private sector providers, while refusing to fill an estimated 44,000 to 50,000 vacancies among VA caregivers.

Things Got A Whole Lot More Local Than I Expected Due To Coronavirus

On March 12, I shared five #LocalYear commitments to help me go more local. Little did I know how local things would get in just one week. The next day local schools closed due to the coronavirus.  Three days later six San Francisco Bay Area counties, including ours, issued a “shelter in place” order affecting seven million people in California’s coronavirus hotspot. Three days after that, Gov. Gavin Newsom did the same for all of California. Ordinary life in California has come to a near standstill. Birdsong has replaced the howl of traffic in my neighborhood. Downtown Mountain View is a near ghost town. Many shops and restaurants are closed, some for good. Aside from daily walks, my family is staying at ground zero of local — our house. 

Absurdity And The Army: The Myth Of ‘Readiness’ In The Corona-Age

Banality may mask absurd tragedy. The Pentagon specializes in such veiled bromides. If anything, this Age of Corona is thus illustrative. To wit, Americans awoke on Thursday to this report in the nation’s “paper of record” — “The Army earlier this week ordered a halt to most training, exercises and nonessential activities that require troops to be in close contact…but abruptly reversed itself. …” On a certain level, the rescinded order made sense. After all, military decisions flow downward. Atop that hierarchy sits the commander-in-chief, who, just days ago, hinted at rapidly curtailed social distancing policies, a reopened economy, and visions of “packed churches” on Easter Sunday. That’s two odd weeks from now. Still, in the wake of the Army’s volte-face, word was, a sort of befuddlement ensued — in the ranks, and among commanders.

It Didn’t Have To Be Like This

We have been forced to choose between two terrible options: 1. Lock ourselves down to prevent the spread of the virus, resulting in massive job loss —while many vulnerable workers are still forced to work in unsafe conditions, or 2. Maintain some business as usual, stemming the economic impact but putting tens of millions of people at risk. It didn’t have to be like this. We could not have prevented the virus itself, nor the resulting loss of life altogether. But imagine if: Instead of cutting public health budgets and access to health care for decades, we had expanded it by enacting a single-payer health care system—an improved Medicare for All. We had community health centers that did low-cost preventive care, giving people the education and resources to stay healthy to begin with and making a much smaller share of the population at risk for dangerous disease.

First Known Federal Inmate Dies Of Coronavirus

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) confirmed late Saturday night that a federal inmate has died from COVID-19—the first known death of an inmate in the federal prison system. Reuters reports that Patrick Jones, 49, an inmate at a low-security federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, died from complications after contracting COVID-19. According to the latest numbers from the BOP, 14 inmates and 13 staff members are infected with the virus. Civil liberties groups, criminal justice advocates, and families of inmates have been begging the Justice Department to get elderly and at-risk inmates out of federal prisons, saying the effects of outbreaks inside prison walls could be catastrophic. There are roughly 20,000 inmates over the age of 55 in the federal prison system.

The Pandemic As Political Trial: The Case For A Global Commons

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health, social and economic crisis. Historical comparisons are few, particularly in recent decades. This tragedy constitutes nothing less than a trial for all humanity. The two meanings of the French word “épreuve” captures the dual significance of what we now confront: épreuve in the sense of an ordeal, an immense and painful undertaking, but also a test, an evaluation, or a judgment.

Trump Administration Ordered Land Taken Out Of Trust, Tribal Chairman Says

The secretary of the Department of the Interior has ordered that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s reservation land be disestablished, Tribal Council chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement posted to the tribe’s website on Friday, March 27. The decision returns the property, which had been held in trust by the federal government as reservation land, to the tribe and disestablishes the reservation, placing projects on the land in limbo.

COHA Deeply Concerned Over Re-election Of Almagro As Secretary General Of The OAS

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, DC (COHA) expresses its deep concern over the re-election of Luis Almagro as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS). No outside experts are needed to explain the consequences of continuing this Uruguayan’s questionable leadership over the regional block.
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