Bittersweet is the passage of this year. There have been some immense victories and some catastrophic defeats, the most terrible being the failure of the Global North countries to adopt a democratic attitude towards confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and creating equitable access to key resources, from life-saving medical equipment to vaccines. Tragically, by the end of this pandemic, we will have learnt the Greek alphabet from the variants named after its letters (Delta, Omicron), which continue to emerge. Cuba leads the world with the highest vaccination rates, using its indigenous vaccines to protect its population as well as those of countries from Venezuela to Vietnam, following a long history of medical solidarity.
The ministerial level meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will take place from November 30 to December 3. Generally, during such meetings, imperialist countries pressure developing countries to abolish their agricultural subsidies according to the policies of “free trade.” The new agricultural laws [the BJP’s neoliberalizing reforms against which the farmers’ movement struggled] were a result of the dictates of such meetings. Even now, the [farmers’ movement’s] demands pertaining to the legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP), the state purchase of crops, and the legal guarantee of the Public Distribution System (PDS) stand in direct contradiction to the dictates of the WTO. Indian rulers have already committed there, in writing, not to guarantee MSP, and the coming meeting is destined to bring more of the same.
Despite President Joe Biden having claimed earlier this year that “diplomacy is back” and that he would end the war in Yemen, revive the Iran Nuclear Deal and settle several other issues, in reality his Middle East foreign policy has been just as detrimental to the region as was that of his predecessor. “This war has to end…we’re ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales,” Biden said in early February during his first address to the U.S. public on his administration’s foreign policy approach. It was a speech that saw him showered with the praise of his supporters, yet we are now in late December and the war has only intensified, with UN experts estimating that the total death toll by the end of the year will be 377,000.
The Global Migration Indicators report by the International Organization for Migration is here, with an update on how COVID-19 affected migration around the world. The report says more than 2,300 migrants died while trying to get into Europe or within Europe in 2020. While the pandemic restricted mobility and reduced international migration, still, there were two hundred and eighty-one million international migrants in the middle of 2020. That is close to four per cent of the world’s population.
Flight Attendant union president and labor leader Sara Nelson is criticizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for changing its guidance on quarantining for COVID-19 after business leaders asked the agency to cut its recommendations by half, potentially at the cost of public health. Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International, accused the CDC in a statement of making its decision to benefit businesses that may be experiencing staffing issues, rather than stemming the spread of the virus. “We said we wanted to hear from medical professionals on the best guidance for quarantine, not from corporate America advocating for a shortened period due to staffing shortages,” Nelson said.
While the City of Seattle swept her home at Ballard Commons, an unhoused woman cried out to the city workers, mutual aid groups, and other community members packing up the park. “Why don’t they come up with a solution that actually makes sense?” she said of the city. “Put people indoors. Do they think we want to be out here in the middle of winter? No! We’re not crazy.” That was three weeks ago. It was 40 degrees that day. Monday, Dec. 27, the city shivered under a high of 23 degrees, the coldest day in 31 years. The risk associated with hypothermia in the cold weather was greater than the risk of contracting COVID-19, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County. That afternoon, Dr. Stephen Morris, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at UW Medicine, told the Seattle Times that Harborview Medical Center saw one cold weather-related death, two “critically ill” patients, and approximately six people admitted for hypothermia.
Aguilera-Mederos, who was 23 years old at the time of the accident, was transporting lumber on Denver’s I-70 freeway when the brakes on his big rig truck failed on a downhill grade where he tried to hug the shoulder. His truck then slammed into stopped traffic that created an explosion and pileup. Governor Polis and the state’s political establishment were forced to respond to mass economic and political pressure by a powerful movement of truck drivers, who mobilized widespread support for Aguilera-Mederos within the working class. Since the December 13 sentencing, drivers refused by the thousands to enter the state of Colorado and deliver goods and circulated the issue widely on social media. Though little reported in the media, the powerful boycott shook the state’s economy to its core.
As far back as 2005, the United Nations had estimated that Iraq was already littered with several thousand contaminated sites. Five years later, an investigation by The Times, a London-based newspaper, suggested that the U.S. military had generated some 11 million pounds of toxic waste and abandoned it in Iraq. Today, the country remains awash in hazardous materials, such as depleted uranium and dioxin, which have polluted the soil and water. And extractive industries like the KAR oil refinery often operate with minimal transparency. On top of all of this, Iraq is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, which has already contributed to grinding water shortages and prolonged drought. In short, Iraq presents a uniquely dystopian tableau—one where human activity contaminates virtually every ecosystem, and where terms like “ecocide” have special currency.
Calls are mounting for President Joe Biden to terminate an under-the-radar Trump-era pilot program that—if allowed to run its course—could result in the complete privatization of traditional Medicare by the end of the decade. A petition recently launched by Physicians for a National Program (PNHP) has garnered more than 10,000 signatures as doctors and other advocates work to raise public awareness of the Medicare Direct Contracting program, which the Trump administration rolled out during its final months in power.
In a petition Indianapolis Target employee Andrew Stacy drafted, one of the key demands is for a minimum $17 per hour, but when Stacy and their coworker were posting the flyers in the break room and distributing them, they were caught. Management confiscated the flyers and human resources held one-on-one meetings with workers about working conditions and higher-ups at the location—a move that Stacy saw as an illegal effort to shut down organizing and find out more about the union activity. In response, they filed a National Labor Review Board complaint on Dec. 15. Prism has reached out to Target for comment on the concerns raised by workers as well as the complaint.
This year was marked by a number of a political setbacks, but it also produced inspiring victories. As it comes to an end, we thought we’d take a look back on 2021. In addition to looking at Washington’s support for Israel’s violence, we wanted to take stock of what Palestine activists accomplished through their tireless work and unwavering commitment to human rights. 2021 kicked off with Joe Biden assuming the presidency. The former Senator has a long pro-Israel track record and his administration upheld that reputation right away. As usual there was the issue of image vs. reality. Israel supporters threw tantrums over the fact Biden didn’t call Netanyahu right away, but when it came down to it nearly every aspect of the “special relationship” stayed intact.
A report by The New York Times (NYT) earlier this month revealed that at least 1,400 innocent civilians were killed in numerous airstrikes, mostly drones strikes, carried out by the US forces since 2014 in Afghanistan and some countries in West Asia. The civilian toll of the US drone strikes has already been widely reported, with several other sources such as Airwars citing a larger number of civilian casualties. The NYT report also revealed the extent of the failure of the international community to ensure accountability and justice for the victims of these war crimes. The impunity enjoyed by the US is a key factor in such atrocities continuing to take place.
Dar-Lon Chang moved to this Denver suburb to start a new life. In Houston, he’d spent 16 years as an engineer at ExxonMobil, the nation’s largest fossil fuel producer. In Colorado, he planned to pursue a career in renewable energy, but the real draw was his new house. Oriented towards the sun, with solar panels on the roof and high-performing insulation, it was capable of generating as much carbon-free energy as it consumed. What little heating and cooling it required came from an efficient, all-electric heat pump. Through these parallel tracks—the domestic and the professional—he and his family would become part of the climate solution, he hoped, rather than participating in its destruction.
Tennessee’s Rutherford County, which has been widely criticized for its juvenile justice system, has been jailing Black children at a disproportionately high rate, according to newly obtained data. And, in a departure from national trends, the county’s racial disparity is getting worse, not better. In an earlier story, ProPublica and Nashville Public Radio chronicled a case in Rutherford County in which 11 Black children were arrested for a crime that does not exist. Four of the children were booked into the county’s juvenile jail. Since publishing that story, the two news organizations have received reports from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. This data shows that while the county was locking up so many kids — often illegally — it was also jailing an exceptionally high percentage of Black children.