Advertisements



Disability rights activists file suit against OPWDD over long standing residential placement issues

Plus: Health insurers request 18.7% rate hike for individual plans in 2023 Union demands medical residents be made eligible for $3,000 front-line worker bonuses Health care payments... To view the full story, click the title link......»»

Category: blogSource: crainsnewyorkJun 23rd, 2022

The life and lawsuits of Lucas Wall, a frequent flier who"s made it his mission to fight Biden"s mask mandate

Lucas Wall, a resident of Washington, DC, who says he's stranded in Florida, has become a leader of a group of anti-mask litigants. Frequent flier Lucas Wall outside his mom's place in The Villages, Florida, where he's been stuck since the Biden mask mandate was put in place. Wall, a leader of a coordinated group of anti-maskers, would often say, "I'm still at mom's."Octavio Jones for Insider Lucas Wall is in a legal battle with the Biden administration over mask mandates for travelers. Dozens of anti-maskers have joined him to argue that the mandates are unconstitutional. The administration has rebuked him. JetBlue has said he's "no longer welcome to fly" with it. A few months after federal mask mandates for US travelers went into effect, a frequent flier named Lucas Wall walked up to a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Orlando International Airport without a mask.Moments earlier, Wall had pressed record on a video that he would later file as an exhibit in a pair of lawsuits against the Biden administration and seven US airlines. The video began with a shot of his COVID-19 vaccination card. He told the camera that it had been about three weeks since he was considered fully vaccinated. He held up a boarding pass for a 10 a.m. Southwest Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale."I am not traveling to another state today. Thus, the federal government has no jurisdiction to force me to cover my face," he said before approaching the checkpoint.A TSA agent pulled a mask out of a box. "To get in, you need a mask," the agent said. Wall declined. He said he was already vaccinated. The agent called for backup.For the next hour or so, Wall spoke with TSA and airport officials, along with Southwest staff members. They inspected his boarding pass and travel documents. They asked him whether he'd filed for a medical exemption. Nobody raised their voice; the resulting videos didn't feature the yelling, screaming, or kicking that has become common on planes during the pandemic. Wall was laying the groundwork for his legal arguments.The incident at the TSA booth on that Wednesday in June was the beginning of a months-long crusade in which Wall has filed thousands of pages of legal arguments and exhibits in federal court in Orlando. In July, Wall tried to take his argument directly to the Supreme Court. In August, the Biden administration filed a blistering response that amounted to its most robust legal defense of its mask mandate for travelers so far.This month, 26 states sued the administration over another mandate — a vaccination requirement for large businesses — using arguments that were very similar to Wall's. The states also argued that President Joe Biden did not have a constitutional grounding to require pandemic safety measures for most Americans.Surveys have suggested that a majority of Americans favor wearing masks as a safety measure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization both say that wearing masks helps stop the spread of COVID-19.But face coverings have become polarizing, with surveys finding opposition from groups including conservatives, the wealthy, and men.Wall's lawsuits have attracted vocal promoters and detractors. Some have sent him emails or texts — a few of which he shared with Insider — accusing him of not taking the pandemic seriously. At least one email referred to him as an "inconsiderate piece of shit.""Sometimes the messages are just so vile that I just block the person and don't even bother responding," Wall said in a recent phone call from Florida. "If anything, they give me more motivation, because I know how wrong they are and I want to prove it to them by winning."Stuck 'at Mom's' in FloridaEarly this year, Wall flew from Washington, DC, where he lives, down to Florida to visit his mom, Lorraine Wall, who lives in The Villages, a sprawling retirement community. He'd been visiting regularly during the pandemic, making sure she was OK.He'd planned to fly back after he was fully vaccinated. But while he was there, Biden signed an executive order to mandate masks for travelers. The CDC and the TSA followed with federal mandates. Airlines also put in place their own requirements.Wall has generalized anxiety disorder, medical documents filed alongside his lawsuits say; he says it prevents him from wearing a mask. Wall, who has made it a goal to travel to every country and territory in the world — he's also been to every state, state capitol building, and national park — said he was grounded without an exemption from the carriers.In a series of phone conversations over the past few months, Wall told Insider about his battle against the government and airlines. He said he didn't have much to do at The Villages, a retirement community with 130,000 residents, but he was busy working on his lawsuits anyway. "Yeah, still at Mom's," he would say each time we spoke. But he was always cheerful about it.Residents dance in the square of The Villages in 2016.Rhona Whise/AFP via Getty Images"He's good company," Lorraine Wall said in an interview. "And he does a certain amount of chores."Lucas Wall credits his mother with his longtime love of travel. She retired from an airline, and they've seen the world using her travel benefits. She said she was "100%" supportive of his effort to end federal mask mandates for travelers, in part because she doesn't much like wearing masks either. ("They don't stay on my ears — they just keep popping off," she said.) Her son took over a wing of her house and immersed himself in legal studies. He'd pop in for dinner some nights when he wasn't too busy.In June, Wall filed two lawsuits in US District Court in Orlando. One was against the government, naming among its defendants Biden and the CDC. The other was against seven US airlines: Southwest, Alaska, Allegiant, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, and Spirit."He's very persistent," Wall's mother said, "and he's not going to stop until he wins."Those filings amounted to about 300 pages packed with dense legalese and citations of other cases and precedent. Growing up in northern Virginia in the '80s and '90s, Wall learned about the law from his father, William Wall, a former fighter pilot who became a lawyer. His father served as his attorney on his first case.Wall at The Villages last month.Octavio Jones for Insider"When he was in high school, he had a lawsuit against the school board," Wall's mother said a few weeks ago. "I think he may have told you about that."In the mid-1990s, Wall sued his high-school principal and other officials after they wouldn't hand over vote totals of a student election. It was his first big lawsuit against people in power. (He'd later spend three years in a legal battle with Virginia over whether he had to renew his driver's license.)He lost the suit against his principal. A local-news clip shot outside the Virginia courthouse showed Wall, in a suit and tie, surrounded by reporters, their microphones jammed in his face."One of the most important things I've learned in high school has been learning how to deal with defeat," he told the crowd. He'd later appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court, which heard the case but upheld the lower court's decision.He's had a few setbacks with his mask lawsuits, too. Wall has a brother and a sister-in-law in Germany whom he's looking forward to visiting again. He had a ticket to see them in July, which was the reason for his emergency Supreme Court petition. (Wall listed $769.89 in flight-related costs as part of his argument about "irreparable harm.") But Justice Clarence Thomas declined to review the petition with the full court.A growing followingWall's lawsuits attracted media attention in part because they were among the first of their kind, but also because he was representing himself. "I'm not a wealthy person, I don't have tens of thousands of dollars to hire an attorney, so that's why I've been working on this on my own," Wall said when we first spoke on the phone. After stories about his lawsuits were published, he heard from other people who also thought mask mandates were unjust or illegal, he said.In Chicago, there was Justin Mahwikizi, a driver for ride-hailing services. "I saw some coverage of his lawsuit while I was researching and drafting mine," Mahwikizi told me. "So I reached out to better understand the federal rules and procedures." After they spoke, Mahwikizi filed his own lawsuit against the CDC.Since then, Wall's anti-mask entourage has grown steadily. In August, more than 30 passengers and flight attendants filed declarations in support of Wall's lawsuit against the Biden administration. When Wall filed an amended complaint against the airlines in September, he added a dozen new plaintiffs. In October, other members of the group filed petitions in six federal circuit courts, with each filing referencing Wall's lawsuit. In an interview last month, Wall told Insider he was preparing a third lawsuit, this time against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.Several people who've joined him in filing a series of lawsuits and petitions described him to Insider as a leader of sorts.In Kentucky, Shannon Greer Cila was browsing GoFundMe when she came across Wall's fundraiser and reached out to him. "He's a little terse. He's very focused. He's very directed," Cila said in a call recently. But he was hard-working, she said, and she signed on as a co-plaintiff against the airlines.Biden and Fauci in February.Evan Vucci/AP PhotoIn Florida, Leonardo McDonnell offered Wall his help after hearing about his lawsuits. "This is good versus evil, and I don't believe in defeating evil with kindness," McDonnell told Insider in an email.In Israel, Uriel ben-Mordechai found himself drawn into Wall's orbit via a Google search for people who felt similarly about mandates for masks, which he called "face diapers." He and his wife, Adi, donated to Wall's fundraiser, then joined his airline lawsuit."He's like me — he's not a lawyer, but he knows the system," ben-Mordechai said in a call recently. "This guy knows what he's doing."Outside of Wall's group of co-petitioners and supporters, views were different. On Villages-News.com, a community publication following Wall's lawsuits, a commenter dubbed Wall a "mommy's boy.""My eleven year-old nephew has a better understanding of the Constitution than you do," the commenter said. "I feel sorry for your mommy. She must loooove you lots to be embarrassed by your constant public statements."People who emailed Wall directly were just as blunt, he said. "People talk about what they do to help others or what they would do for their country but you can't even wear a mask," one email he shared with Insider said. "It's sad and speaks volumes about the type of person you are."The Biden administration's defenseIn early October, the Biden administration's lawyers tried to poke holes in Wall's complaint. He had bought his plane ticket on May 31, just two days before he planned to fly, they said.The lawyers said that instead of filling out Southwest's form to request a medical exemption from the mask mandate, Wall wrote on the form that he thought the request itself was illegal. They said that because he had booked the flight with such short notice, Southwest could not have granted an exemption, and TSA officials acted accordingly. They said the complaint "is due to be dismissed as a shotgun pleading," a term for legal filings that are stuffed with facts but have little organization. They'd taken issue with the first 182 pages, or 960 paragraphs, of Wall's initial 206-page filing, saying they were "replete with conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts."A US district courthouse.Cliff Owen/AP PhotoAs such, it was difficult to say which of those 960 paragraphs related to each of the 23 charges Wall had levied at the government, the lawyers wrote."It is not the Court's responsibility to cobble together portions of the Complaint to create a comprehensible pleading," they said.In late October, Wall replied with a 22-point objection, adding 55 pages of arguments. He said he'd filled out Southwest's "illegal mask-exemption-request form" immediately after booking."Even if it were permitted by law, it would have been impossible for me to send in the form any sooner," Wall wrote.Wall told the court that his claim was "long and detailed" but that "short and plain" statements of fact made up the 960 paragraphs the government had mentioned. He said his arguments were "simple, concise, and direct."A canceled ticketAs Wall continued his legal battle, members of his coalition of anti-maskers began running into difficulties of their own.In late September, Wall convened a group of 13 fliers who opposed masks for medical reasons. In one day, they filed petitions in six federal circuit courts, with each referencing Wall's suit. In the weeks that followed, they and Wall began running into issues with the TSA and airlines.One of the petitioners, Michael Faris, a helicopter technician from Kentucky, booked a flight on United but was denied boarding after he declined to wear a mask, then put one on at the gate, then had "a panic attack and collapse in the jetway," he said in a court filing. He rebooked with American but found that his boarding pass had been marked "SSSS," a TSA category meaning "Secondary Security Screening Selection," which required extensive searching before boarding.A boarding pass marked "SSSS," a TSA code for Secondary Security Screening Selection.Jim Urquhart/ReutersFaris wrote in an emergency petition that he "submitted a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security, TSA's parent agency, regarding his placement on the terrorist watchlist." A few days later, Faris said in a statement that he'd since been removed from the list. The TSA didn't respond to Insider's request for comment.Faris last week filed another emergency petition, again asking the court to invalidate the mask mandate. Dept. of Justice lawyers responded by saying that "any harm suffered by [Faris] is plainly outweighed by the need to protect the public from unsafe air operations." On Friday, three federal circuit judges denied the motion. A few weeks ago, Wall said in an email to Insider that he'd been barred from flying on JetBlue. He'd finally booked a flight to Washington, DC, and requested a mask waiver from the airline. But his ticket was canceled "with no explanation," he said. Later, an airline customer-service supervisor told him that the company's security department had canceled his ticket, Wall said."JetBlue's action banning me from flying because I sued over its unlawful mask policy constitutes illegal retaliation for asserting my rights under the Air Carrier Access Act to be free from discrimination," Wall said in his email.He sent similar emails to the media for each person in the group of 13 who'd been removed from a flight or prevented from flying. But behind the scenes, Wall was planning something bigger: a media event that would, he believed, bring further attention to his cause.A 'silent & peaceful' protestOn August 1, a private Facebook group called Americans Against Mask Mandates was created. The group, which said it opposed any government order that "muzzled" people, attracted hundreds of Facebook users.Weeks before Wall booked his flight from Orlando to Washington, he posted in that group looking for volunteers who wanted to make a statement against the mask mandate through "Operation Freedom to Breathe Flights" and to help launch his lawsuit against Fauci. (A person with access to the group shared the post with Insider.)The post said Wall was looking for people from around the country to book flights to Washington. On each flight, those volunteers would "remove their mask when the seatbelt sign is turned off and refuse to put it back on," the post said, adding, "All fliers will be given legal documents to hand to the flight attendants who come around demanding the muzzles be put back on."Wall wanted his volunteers to "agree to a SILENT & PEACEFUL" protest, with "no yelling, chanting, arguing with FAs and/or other passengers, etc.," it said.Wall in The Villages in October.Octavio Jones for InsiderJetBlue told Insider that Wall had been barred because of social-media posts that had been shared with the airline, not because of the lawsuit he'd filed against the airlines."We continue to comply with the federal mask mandate and offer a process for exemptions in limited cases. The safety of our crewmembers and customers is our top priority," a spokesperson, Derek Dombrowski, said in an email."This customer has publicly announced efforts to recruit and organize other customers to collectively disrupt flights on commercial aircraft heading to Washington, D.C., this month by refusing to wear their masks during flights. It's for this reason, not his current litigation, that he is no longer welcome to fly JetBlue."Wall had planned for the protesters to meet up in the baggage claim at Dulles Airport in Washington for a press conference. Then they'd "all ride maskless" on the subway to the federal courthouse near the Capitol, the post said. He pictured a media event with the plaintiffs going in the courthouse to file while others "yell and chant outside.""After we come out with the stamped 'FILED' copy of the complaint, we'll hold another media availability to talk about the lawsuit against Dr. Fauci et al," he said.As of mid-November, Wall hadn't yet filed that complaint.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 18th, 2021

Camber Energy: What If They Made a Whole Company Out of Red Flags? – Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale Capital is short shares of Camber Energy Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:CEI). Camber is a defunct oil producer that has failed to file financial statements with the SEC since September 2020, is in danger of having its stock delisted next month, and just fired its accounting firm in September. Its only real asset is a 73% stake […] Kerrisdale Capital is short shares of Camber Energy Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:CEI). Camber is a defunct oil producer that has failed to file financial statements with the SEC since September 2020, is in danger of having its stock delisted next month, and just fired its accounting firm in September. Its only real asset is a 73% stake in Viking Energy Group Inc (OTCMKTS:VKIN), an OTC-traded company with negative book value and a going-concern warning that recently violated the maximum-leverage covenant on one of its loans. (For a time, it also had a fake CFO – long story.) Nonetheless, Camber’s stock price has increased by 6x over the past month; last week, astonishingly, an average of $1.9 billion worth of Camber shares changed hands every day. if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Henry Singleton Series in PDF Get the entire 4-part series on Henry Singleton in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q2 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Is there any logic to this bizarre frenzy? Camber pumpers have seized upon the notion that the company is now a play on carbon capture and clean energy, citing a license agreement recently entered into by Viking. But the “ESG Clean Energy” technology license is a joke. Not only is it tiny relative to Camber’s market cap (costing only $5 million and granting exclusivity only in Canada), but it has embroiled Camber in the long-running escapades of a western Massachusetts family that once claimed to have created a revolutionary new combustion engine, only to wind up being penalized by the SEC for raising $80 million in unregistered securities offerings, often to unaccredited investors, and spending much of it on themselves. But the most fascinating part of the CEI boondoggle actually has to do with something far more basic: how many shares are there, and why has dilution been spiraling out of control? We believe the market is badly mistaken about Camber’s share count and ignorant of its terrifying capital structure. In fact, we estimate its fully diluted share count is roughly triple the widely reported number, bringing its true, fully diluted market cap, absurdly, to nearly $900 million. Since Camber is delinquent on its financials, investors have failed to fully appreciate the impact of its ongoing issuance of an unusual, highly dilutive class of convertible preferred stock. As a result of this “death spiral” preferred, Camber has already seen its share count increase 50- million-fold from early 2016 to July 2021 – and we believe it isn’t over yet, as preferred holders can and will continue to convert their securities and sell the resulting common shares. Even at the much lower valuation that investors incorrectly think Camber trades for, it’s still overvalued. The core Viking assets are low-quality and dangerously levered, while any near- term benefits from higher commodity prices will be muted by hedges established in 2020. The recent clean-energy license is nearly worthless. It’s ridiculous to have to say this, but Camber isn’t worth $900 million. If it looks like a penny stock, and it acts like a penny stock, it is a penny stock. Camber has been a penny stock before – no more than a month ago, in fact – and we expect that it will be once again. Company Background Founded in 2004, Camber was originally called Lucas Energy Resources. It went public via a reverse merger in 2006 with the plan of “capitaliz[ing] on the increasing availability of opportunistic acquisitions in the energy sector.”1 But after years of bad investments and a nearly 100% decline in its stock price, the company, which renamed itself Camber in 2017, found itself with little economic value left; faced with the prospect of losing its NYSE American listing, it cast about for new acquisitions beginning in early 2019. That’s when Viking entered the picture. Jim Miller, a member of Camber’s board, had served on the board of a micro-cap company called Guardian 8 that was working on “a proprietary new class of enhanced non-lethal weapons”; Guardian 8’s CEO, Steve Cochennet, happened to also be part owner of a Kansas-based company that operated some of Viking’s oil and gas assets and knew that Viking, whose shares traded over the counter, was interested in moving up to a national exchange.2 (In case you’re wondering, under Miller and Cochennet’s watch, Guardian 8’s stock saw its price drop to ~$0; it was delisted in 2019.3) Viking itself also had a checkered past. Previously a shell company, it was repurposed by a corporate lawyer and investment banker named Tom Simeo to create SinoCubate, “an incubator of and investor in privately held companies mainly in P.R. China.” But this business model went nowhere. In 2012, SinoCubate changed its name to Viking Investments but continued to achieve little. In 2014, Simeo brought in James A. Doris, a Canadian lawyer, as a member of the board of directors and then as president and CEO, tasked with executing on Viking’s new strategy of “acquir[ing] income-producing assets throughout North America in various sectors, including energy and real estate.” In a series of transactions, Doris gradually built up a portfolio of oil wells and other energy assets in the United States, relying on large amounts of high-cost debt to get deals done. But Viking has never achieved consistent GAAP profitability; indeed, under Doris’s leadership, from 2015 to the first half of 2021, Viking’s cumulative net income has totaled negative $105 million, and its financial statements warn of “substantial doubt regarding the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”4 At first, despite the Guardian 8 crew’s match-making, Camber showed little interest in Viking and pursued another acquisition instead. But, when that deal fell apart, Camber re-engaged with Viking and, in February 2020, announced an all-stock acquisition – effectively a reverse merger in which Viking would end up as the surviving company but transfer some value to incumbent Camber shareholders in exchange for the national listing. For reasons that remain somewhat unclear, this original deal structure was beset with delays, and in December 2020 (after months of insisting that deal closing was just around the corner) Camber announced that it would instead directly purchase a 51% stake in Viking; at the same time, Doris, Viking’s CEO, officially took over Camber as well. Subsequent transactions through July 2021 have brough Camber’s Viking stake up to 69.9 million shares (73% of Viking’s total common shares), in exchange for consideration in the form of a mixture of cash, debt forgiveness,5 and debt assumption, valued in the aggregate by Viking at only $50.7 million: Camber and Viking announced a new merger agreement in February 2021, aiming to take out the remaining Viking shares not owned by Camber and thus fully combine the two companies, but that plan is on hold because Camber has failed to file its last 10-K (as well as two subsequent 10-Qs) and is thus in danger of being delisted unless it catches up by November. Today, then, Camber’s absurd equity valuation rests entirely on its majority stake in a small, unprofitable oil-and-gas roll-up cobbled together by a Canadian lawyer. An Opaque Capital Structure Has Concealed the True Insanity of Camber’s Valuation What actually is Camber’s equity valuation? It sounds like a simple question, and sources like Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance supply what looks like a simple answer: 104.2 million shares outstanding times a $3.09 closing price (as of October 4, 2021) equals a market cap of $322 million – absurd enough, given what Camber owns. But these figures only tell part of the story. We estimate that the correct fully diluted market cap is actually a staggering $882 million, including the impact of both Camber’s unusual, highly dilutive Series C convertible preferred stock and its convertible debt. Because Camber is delinquent on its SEC filings, it’s difficult to assemble an up-to-date picture of its balance sheet and capital structure. The widely used 104.2-million-share figure comes from an 8-K filed in July that states, in part: As of July 9, 2021, the Company had 104,195,295 shares of common stock issued and outstanding. The increase in our outstanding shares of common stock from the date of the Company’s February 23, 2021 increase in authorized shares of common stock (from 25 million shares to 250 million shares), is primarily due to conversions of shares of Series C Preferred Stock of the Company into common stock, and conversion premiums due thereon, which are payable in shares of common stock. This bland language belies the stunning magnitude of the dilution that has already taken place. Indeed, we estimate that, of the 104.2 million common shares outstanding on July 9th, 99.7% were created via the conversion of Series C preferred in the past few years – and there’s more where that came from. The terms of Camber’s preferreds are complex but boil down to the following: they accrue non- cash dividends at the sky-high rate of 24.95% per year for a notional seven years but can be converted into common shares at any time. The face value of the preferred shares converts into common shares at a fixed conversion price of $162.50 per share, far higher than the current trading price – so far, so good (from a Camber-shareholder perspective). The problem is the additional “conversion premium,” which is equal to the full seven years’ worth of dividends, or 7 x 24.95% ≈ 175% of face value, all at once, and is converted at a far lower conversion price that “will never be above approximately $0.3985 per share…regardless of the actual trading price of Camber’s common stock” (but could in principle go lower if the price crashes to new lows).6 The upshot of all this is that one share of Series C preferred is now convertible into ~43,885 shares of common stock.7 Historically, all of Camber’s Series C preferred was held by one investor: Discover Growth Fund. The terms of the preferred agreement cap Discover’s ownership of Camber’s common shares at 9.99% of the total, but nothing stops Discover from converting preferred into common up to that cap, selling off the resulting shares, converting additional preferred shares into common up to the cap, selling those common shares, etc., as Camber has stated explicitly (and as Discover has in fact done over the years) (emphasis added): Although Discover may not receive shares of common stock exceeding 9.99% of its outstanding shares of common stock immediately after affecting such conversion, this restriction does not prevent Discover from receiving shares up to the 9.99% limit, selling those shares, and then receiving the rest of the shares it is due, in one or more tranches, while still staying below the 9.99% limit. If Discover chooses to do this, it will cause substantial dilution to the then holders of its common stock. Additionally, the continued sale of shares issuable upon successive conversions will likely create significant downward pressure on the price of its common stock as Discover sells material amounts of Camber’s common stock over time and/or in a short period of time. This could place further downward pressure on the price of its common stock and in turn result in Discover receiving an ever increasing number of additional shares of common stock upon conversion of its securities, and adjustments thereof, which in turn will likely lead to further dilution, reductions in the exercise/conversion price of Discover’s securities and even more downward pressure on its common stock, which could lead to its common stock becoming devalued or worthless.8 In 2017, soon after Discover began to convert some of its first preferred shares, Camber’s then- management claimed to be shocked by the results and sued Discover for fraud, arguing that “[t]he catastrophic effect of the Discover Documents [i.e. the terms of the preferred] is so devastating that the Discover Documents are prima facie unconscionable” because “they will permit Discover to strip Camber of its value and business well beyond the simple repayment of its debt.” Camber called the documents “extremely difficult to understand” and insisted that they “were drafted in such a way as to obscure the true terms of such documents and the total number of shares of common stock that could be issuable by Camber thereunder. … Only after signing the documents did Camber and [its then CEO]…learn that Discover’s reading of the Discover Documents was that the terms that applied were the strictest and most Camber unfriendly interpretation possible.”9 But the judge wasn’t impressed, suggesting that it was Camber’s own fault for failing to read the fine print, and the case was dismissed. With no better options, Camber then repeatedly came crawling back to Discover for additional tranches of funding via preferred sales. While the recent spike in common share count to 104.2 million as of early July includes some of the impact of ongoing preferred conversion, we believe it fails to include all of it. In addition to Discover’s 2,093 shares of Series C preferred held as of February 2021, Camber issued additional shares to EMC Capital Partners, a creditor of Viking’s, as part of a January agreement to reduce Viking’s debt.10 Then, in July, Camber issued another block of preferred shares – also to Discover, we believe – to help fund Viking’s recent deals.11 We speculate that many of these preferred shares have already been converted into common shares that have subsequently been sold into a frenzied retail bid. Beyond the Series C preferred, there is one additional source of potential dilution: debt issued to Discover in three transactions from December 2020 to April 2021, totaling $20.5 million in face value, and amended in July to be convertible at a fixed price of $1.25 per share.12 We summarize our estimates of all of these sources of potential common share issuance below: Might we be wrong about this math? Absolutely – the mechanics of the Series C preferreds are so convoluted that prior Camber management sued Discover complaining that the legal documents governing them “were drafted in such a way as to obscure the true terms of such documents and the total number of shares of common stock that could be issuable by Camber thereunder.” Camber management could easily set the record straight by revealing the most up- to-date share count via an SEC filing, along with any additional clarifications about the expected future share count upon conversion of all outstanding convertible securities. But we're confident that the current share count reported in financial databases like Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance significantly understates the true, fully diluted figure. An additional indication that Camber expects massive future dilution relates to the total authorized shares of common stock under its official articles of incorporation. It was only a few months ago, in February, that Camber had to hold a special shareholder meeting to increase its maximum authorized share count from 25 million to 250 million in order to accommodate all the shares to be issued because of preferred conversions. But under Camber’s July agreement to sell additional preferred shares to Discover, the company (emphasis added) agreed to include proposals relating to the approval of the July 2021 Purchase Agreement and the issuance of the shares of common stock upon conversion of the Series C Preferred Stock sold pursuant to the July 2021 Purchase Agreement, as well as an increase in authorized common stock to fulfill our obligations to issue such shares, at the Company’s next Annual Meeting, the meeting held to approve the Merger or a separate meeting in the event the Merger is terminated prior to shareholder approval, and to use commercially reasonable best efforts to obtain such approvals as soon as possible and in any event prior to January 1, 2022.13 In other words, Camber can already see that 250 million shares will soon not be enough, consistent with our estimate of ~285 million fully diluted shares above. In sum, Camber’s true overvaluation is dramatically worse than it initially appears because of the massive number of common shares that its preferred and other securities can convert into, leading to a fully diluted share count that is nearly triple the figure found in standard information sources used by investors. This enormous latent dilution, impossible to discern without combing through numerous scattered filings made by a company with no up-to-date financial statements in the public domain, means that the market is – perhaps out of ignorance – attributing close to one billion dollars of value to a very weak business. Camber’s Stake in Viking Has Little Real Value In light of Camber’s gargantuan valuation, it’s worth dwelling on some basic facts about its sole meaningful asset, a 73% stake in Viking Energy. As of 6/30/21: Viking had negative $15 million in shareholder equity/book Its financial statements noted “substantial doubt regarding the Company’s ability to continue as a going ” Of its $101.3 million in outstanding debt (at face value), nearly half (48%) was scheduled to mature and come due over the following 12 months. Viking noted that it “does not currently maintain controls and procedures that are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by the Company in the reports it files or submits under the Exchange Act are recorded, processed, summarized, and reported within the time periods specified by the Commission’s rules and forms.” Viking’s CEO “has concluded that these [disclosure] controls and procedures are not effective in providing reasonable assurance of compliance.” Viking disclosed that a key subsidiary, Elysium Energy, was “in default of the maximum leverage ratio covenant under the term loan agreement at June 30, 2021”; this covenant caps the entity’s total secured debt to EBITDA at 75 to 1.14 This is hardly a healthy operation. Indeed, even according to Viking’s own black-box estimates, the present value of its total proved reserves of oil and gas, using a 10% discount rate (likely generous given the company’s high debt costs), was $120 million as of 12/31/20,15 while its outstanding debt, as stated above, is $101 million – perhaps implying a sliver of residual economic value to equity holders, but not much. And while some market observers have recently gotten excited about how increases in commodity prices could benefit Camber/Viking, any near-term impact will be blunted by hedges put on by Viking in early 2020, which cover, with respect to its Elysium properties, “60% of the estimated production for 2021 and 50% of the estimated production for the period between January, 2022 to July, 2022. Theses hedges have a floor of $45 and a ceiling ranging from $52.70 to $56.00 for oil, and a floor of $2.00 and a ceiling of $2.425 for natural gas” – cutting into the benefit of any price spikes above those ceiling levels.16 Sharing our dreary view of Viking’s prospects is one of Viking’s own financial advisors, a firm called Scalar, LLC, that Viking hired to prepare a fairness opinion under the original all-stock merger agreement with Camber. Combining Viking’s own internal projections with data on comparable-company valuation multiples, Scalar concluded in October 2020 that Viking’s equity was worth somewhere between $0 and $20 million, depending on the methodology used, with the “purest” methodology – a true, full-blown DCF – yielding the lowest estimate of $0-1 million: Camber’s advisor, Mercer Capital, came to a similar conclusion: its “analysis indicated an implied equity value of Viking of $0 to $34.3 million.”17 It’s inconceivable that a majority stake in this company, deemed potentially worthless by multiple experts and clearly experiencing financial strains, could somehow justify a near-billion-dollar valuation. Instead of dwelling on the unpleasant realities of Viking’s oil and gas business, Camber has drawn investor attention to two recent transactions conducted by Viking with Camber funding: a license agreement with “ESG Clean Energy,” discussed in further detail below, and the acquisition of a 60.3% stake in Simson-Maxwell, described as “a leading manufacturer and supplier of industrial engines, power generation products, services and custom energy solutions.” But Viking paid just $8 million for its Simson-Maxwell shares,18 and the company has just 125 employees; it defies belief to think that this purchase was such a bargain as to make a material dent in Camber’s overvaluation. And what does Simson-Maxwell actually do? One of its key officers, Daryl Kruper (identified as its chairman in Camber’s press release), describes the company a bit less grandly and more concretely on his LinkedIn page: Simson Maxwell is a power systems specialist. The company assembles and sells generator sets, industrial engines, power control systems and switchgear. Simson Maxwell has service and parts facilities in Edmonton, Calgary, Prince George, Vancouver, Nanaimo and Terrace. The company has provided its western Canadian customers with exceptional service for over 70 years. In other words, Simson-Maxwell acts as a sort of distributor/consultant, packaging industrial- strength generators and engines manufactured by companies like GE and Mitsubishi into systems that can provide electrical power, often in remote areas in western Canada; Simson- Maxwell employees then drive around in vans maintaining and repairing these systems. There’s nothing obviously wrong with this business, but it’s small, regional (not just Canada – western Canada specifically), likely driven by an unpredictable flow of new large projects, and unlikely to garner a high standalone valuation. Indeed, buried in one of Viking’s agreements with Simson- Maxwell’s selling shareholders (see p. 23) are clauses giving Viking the right to purchase the rest of the company between July 2024 and July 2026 at a price of at least 8x trailing EBITDA and giving the selling shareholders the right to sell the rest of their shares during the same time frame at a price of at least 7x trailing EBITDA – the kind of multiples associated with sleepy industrial distributors, not fast-growing retail darlings. Since Simon-Maxwell has nothing to do with Viking’s pre-existing assets or (alleged) expertise in oil and gas, and Viking and Camber are hardly flush with cash, why did they make the purchase? We speculate that management is concerned about the combined company’s ability to maintain its listing on the NYSE American. For example, when describing its restruck merger agreement with Viking, Camber noted: Additional closing conditions to the Merger include that in the event the NYSE American determines that the Merger constitutes, or will constitute, a “back-door listing”/“reverse merger”, Camber (and its common stock) is required to qualify for initial listing on the NYSE American, pursuant to the applicable guidance and requirements of the NYSE as of the Effective Time. What does it take to qualify for initial listing on the NYSE American? There are several ways, but three require at least $4 million of positive stockholders’ equity, which Viking, the intended surviving company, doesn’t have today; another requires a market cap of greater than $75 million, which management might (quite reasonably) be concerned about achieving sustainably. That leaves a standard that requires a listed company to have $75 million in assets and revenue. With Viking running at only ~$40 million of annualized revenue, we believe management is attempting to buy up more via acquisition. In fact, if the goal is simply to “buy” GAAP revenue, the most efficient way to do it is by acquiring a stake in a low-margin, slow- growing business – little earnings power, hence a low purchase price, but plenty of revenue. And by buying a majority stake instead of the whole thing, the acquirer can further reduce the capital outlay while still being able to consolidate all of the operation’s revenue under GAAP accounting. Buying 60.3% of Simson-Maxwell seems to fit the bill, but it’s a placeholder, not a real value-creator. Camber’s Partners in the Laughable “ESG Clean Energy” Deal Have a Long History of Broken Promises and Alleged Securities Fraud The “catalyst” most commonly cited by Camber Energy bulls for the recent massive increase in the company’s stock price is an August 24th press release, “Camber Energy Secures Exclusive IP License for Patented Carbon-Capture System,” announcing that the company, via Viking, “entered into an Exclusive Intellectual Property License Agreement with ESG Clean Energy, LLC (‘ESG’) regarding ESG’s patent rights and know-how related to stationary electric power generation, including methods to utilize heat and capture carbon dioxide.” Our research suggests that the “intellectual property” in question amounts to very little: in essence, the concept of collecting the exhaust gases emitted by a natural-gas–fueled electric generator, cooling it down to distill out the water vapor, and isolating the remaining carbon dioxide. But what happens to the carbon dioxide then? The clearest answer ESG Clean Energy has given is that it “can be sold to…cannabis producers”19 to help their plants grow faster, though the vast majority of the carbon dioxide would still end up escaping into the atmosphere over time, and additional greenhouse gases would be generated in compressing and shipping this carbon dioxide to the cannabis producers, likely leading to a net worsening of carbon emissions.20 And what is Viking – which primarily extracts oil and gas from the ground, as opposed to running generators and selling electrical power – supposed to do with this technology anyway? The idea seems to be that the newly acquired Simson-Maxwell business will attempt to sell the “technology” as a value-add to customers who are buying generators in western Canada. Indeed, while Camber’s press-release headline emphasized the “exclusive” nature of the license, the license is only exclusive in Canada plus “up to twenty-five locations in the United States” – making the much vaunted deal even more trivial than it might first appear. Viking paid an upfront royalty of $1.5 million in cash in August, with additional installments of $1.5 and $2 million due by January and April 2022, respectively, for a total of $5 million. In addition, Viking “shall pay to ESG continuing royalties of not more than 15% of the net revenues of Viking generated using the Intellectual Property, with the continuing royalty percentage to be jointly determined by the parties collaboratively based on the parties’ development of realistic cashflow models resulting from initial projects utilizing the Intellectual Property, and with the parties utilizing mediation if they cannot jointly agree to the continuing royalty percentage”21 – a strangely open-ended, perhaps rushed, way of setting a royalty rate. Overall, then, Viking is paying $5 million for roughly 85% of the economics of a technology that might conceivably help “capture” CO2 emitted by electric generators in Canada (and up to 25 locations in the United States!) but then probably just re-emit it again. This is the great advance that has driven Camber to a nearly billion-dollar market cap. It’s with good reason that on ESG Clean Energy’s web site (as of early October), the list of “press releases that show that ESG Clean Energy is making waves in the distributive power industry” is blank: If the ESG Clean Energy license deal were just another trivial bit of vaporware hyped up by a promotional company and its over-eager shareholders, it would be problematic but unremarkable; things like that happen all the time. But it’s the nature and history of Camber/Viking’s counterparty in the ESG deal that truly makes the situation sublime. ESG Clean Energy is in fact an offshoot of the Scuderi Group, a family business in western Massachusetts created to develop the now deceased Carmelo Scuderi’s idea for a revolutionary new type of engine. (In a 2005 AP article entitled “Engine design draws skepticism,” an MIT professor “said the creation is almost certain to fail.”) Two of Carmelo’s children, Nick and Sal, appeared in a recent ESG Clean Energy video with Camber’s CEO, who called Sal “more of the brains behind the operation” but didn’t state his official role – interesting since documents associated with ESG Clean Energy’s recent small-scale capital raises don’t mention Sal at all. Buried in Viking’s contract with ESG Clean Energy is the following section, indicating that the patents and technology underlying the deal actually belong in the first instance to the Scuderi Group, Inc.: 2.6 Demonstration of ESG’s Exclusive License with Scuderi Group and Right to Grant Licenses in this Agreement. ESG shall provide necessary documentation to Viking which demonstrates ESG’s right to grant the licenses in this Section 2 of this Agreement. For the avoidance of doubt, ESG shall provide necessary documentation that verifies the terms and conditions of ESG’s exclusive license with the Scuderi Group, Inc., a Delaware USA corporation, having an address of 1111 Elm Street, Suite 33, West Springfield, MA 01089 USA (“Scuderi Group”), and that nothing within ESG’s exclusive license with the Scuderi Group is inconsistent with the terms of this Agreement. In fact, the ESG Clean Energy entity itself was originally called Scuderi Clean Energy but changed its name in 2019; its subsidiary ESG-H1, LLC, which presides over a long-delayed power-generation project in the small city of Holyoke, Massachusetts (discussed further below), used to be called Scuderi Holyoke Power LLC but also changed its name in 2019.22 The SEC provided a good summary of the Scuderi Group’s history in a 2013 cease-and-desist order that imposed a $100,000 civil money penalty on Sal Scuderi (emphasis added): Founded in 2002, Scuderi Group has been in the business of developing a new internal combustion engine design. Scuderi Group’s business plan is to develop, patent, and license its engine technology to automobile companies and other large engine manufacturers. Scuderi Group, which considers itself a development stage company, has not generated any revenue… …These proceedings arise out of unregistered, non-exempt stock offerings and misleading disclosures regarding the use of offering proceeds by Scuderi Group and Mr. Scuderi, the company’s president. Between 2004 and 2011, Scuderi Group sold more than $80 million worth of securities through offerings that were not registered with the Commission and did not qualify for any of the exemptions from the Securities Act’s registration requirement. The company’s private placement memoranda informed investors that Scuderi Group intended to use the proceeds from its offerings for “general corporate purposes, including working capital.” In fact, the company was making significant payments to Scuderi family members for non-corporate purposes, including, large, ad hoc bonus payments to Scuderi family employees to cover personal expenses; payments to family members who provided no services to Scuderi; loans to Scuderi family members that were undocumented, with no written interest and repayment terms; large loans to fund $20 million personal insurance policies for six of the Scuderi siblings for which the company has not been, and will not be, repaid; and personal estate planning services for the Scuderi family. Between 2008 and 2011, a period when Scuderi Group sold more than $75 million in securities despite not obtaining any revenue, Mr. Scuderi authorized more than $3.2 million in Scuderi Group spending on such purposes. …In connection with these offerings [of stock], Scuderi Group disseminated more than 3,000 PPMs [private placement memoranda] to potential investors, directly and through third parties. Scuderi Group found these potential investors by, among other things, conducting hundreds of roadshows across the U.S.; hiring a registered broker-dealer to find investors; and paying numerous intermediaries to encourage people to attend meetings that Scuderi Group arranged for potential investors. …Scuderi Group’s own documents reflect that, in total, over 90 of the company’s investors were non-accredited investors… The Scuderi Group and Sal Scuderi neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s findings but agreed to stop violating securities law. Contemporary local news coverage of the regulatory action added color to the SEC’s description of the Scuderis’ fund-raising tactics (emphasis added): Here on Long Island, folks like HVAC specialist Bill Constantine were early investors, hoping to earn a windfall from Scuderi licensing the idea to every engine manufacturer in the world. Constantine said he was familiar with the Scuderis because he worked at an Islandia company that distributed an oil-less compressor for a refrigerant recovery system designed by the family patriarch. Constantine told [Long Island Business News] he began investing in the engine in 2007, getting many of his friends and family to put their money in, too. The company held an invitation-only sales pitch at the Marriott in Islandia in February 2011. Commercial real estate broker George Tsunis said he was asked to recruit investors for the Scuderi Group, but declined after hearing the pitch. “They were talking about doing business with Volkswagen and Mercedes, but everything was on the come,” Tsunis said. “They were having a party and nobody came.” Hot on the heels of the SEC action, an individual investor who had purchased $197,000 of Scuderi Group preferred units sued the Scuderi Group as well as Sal, Nick, Deborah, Stephen, and Ruth Scuderi individually, alleging, among other things, securities fraud (e.g. “untrue statements of material fact” in offering memoranda). This case was settled out of court in 2016 after the judge reportedly “said from the bench that he was likely to grant summary judgement for [the] plaintiff. … That ruling would have clear the way for other investors in Scuderi to claim at least part of a monetary settlement.” (Two other investors filed a similar lawsuit in 2017 but had it dismissed in 2018 because they ran afoul of the statute of limitations.23) The Scuderi Group put on a brave face, saying publicly, “The company is very pleased to put the SEC matter behind it and return focus to its technology.” In fact, in December 2013, just months after the SEC news broke, the company entered into a “Cooperative Consortium Agreement” with Hino Motors, a Japanese manufacturer, creating an “engineering research group” to further develop the Scuderi engine concept. “Hino paid Scuderi an initial fee of $150,000 to join the Consortium Group, which was to be refunded if Scuderi was unable to raise the funding necessary to start the Project by the Commencement Date,” in the words of Hino’s later lawsuit.24 Sure enough, the Scuderi Group ended up canceling the project in early October 2014 “due to funding and participant issues” – but it didn’t pay back the $150,000. Hino’s lawsuit documents Stephen Scuderi’s long series of emailed excuses: 10/31/14: “I must apologize, but we are going to be a little late in our refund of the Consortium Fee of $150,000. I am sure you have been able to deduce that we have a fair amount of challenging financial problems that we are working through. I am counting on financing for our current backlog of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) projects to provide the capital to refund the Consortium Fee. Though we are very optimistic that the financial package for our PPA projects will be completed successfully, the process is taking a little longer than I originally expected to complete (approximately 3 months longer).” 11/25/14: “I am confident that we can pay Hino back its refund by the end of January. … The reason I have been slow to respond is because I was waiting for feedback from a few large cornerstone investors that we have been negotiating with. The negotiations have been progressing very well and we are close to a comprehensive financing deal, but (as often happens) the back and forth of the negotiating process takes ” 1/12/15: “We have given a proposal to the potential high-end investors that is most interested in investing a large sum of money into Scuderi Group. That investor has done his due-diligence on our company and has communicated to us that he likes our proposal but wants to give us a counter ” 1/31/15: “The individual I spoke of last month is one of several high net worth individuals that are currently evaluating investing a significant amount of equity capital into our That particular individual has not yet responded with a counter proposal, because he wishes to complete a study on the power generation market as part of his due diligence effort first. Though we learned of the study only recently, we believe that his enthusiasm for investing in Scuderi Group remains as strong as ever and steady progress is being made with the other high net worth individuals as well. … I ask only that you be patient for a short while longer as we make every effort possible to raise the monies need[ed] to refund Hino its consortium fee.” Fed up, Hino sued instead of waiting for the next excuse – but ended up discovering that the Scuderi bank account to which it had wired the $150,000 now contained only about $64,000. Hino and the Scuderi Group then entered into a settlement in which that account balance was supposed to be immediately handed over to Hino, with the remainder plus interest to be paid back later – but Scuderi didn’t even comply with its own settlement, forcing Hino to re-initiate its lawsuit and obtain an official court judgment against Scuderi. Pursuant to that judgment, Hino formally requested an array of documents like tax returns and bank statements, but Scuderi simply ignored these requests, using the following brazen logic:25 Though as of this date, the execution has not been satisfied, Scuderi continues to operate in the ordinary course of business and reasonably expects to have money available to satisfy the execution in full in the near future. … Responding to the post- judgment discovery requests, as a practical matter, will not enable Scuderi to pay Hino any faster than can be achieved by Scuderi using all of its resources and efforts to conduct its day-to-day business operations and will only serve to impose additional and unnecessary costs on both parties. Scuderi has offered and is willing to make payments every 30 days to Hino in amounts not less than $10,000 until the execution is satisfied in full. Shortly thereafter, in March 2016, Hino dropped its case, perhaps having chosen to take the $10,000 per month rather than continue to tangle in court with the Scuderis (though we don’t know for sure). With its name tarnished by disgruntled investors and the SEC, and at least one of its bank accounts wiped out by Hino Motors, the Scuderi Group didn’t appear to have a bright future. But then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new business was born: Scuderi Clean Energy, “a wholly owned subsidiary of Scuderi Group, Inc. … formed in October 2015 to market Scuderi Engine Technology to the power generation industry.” (Over time, references to the troubled “Scuderi Engine Technology” have faded away; today ESG Clean Energy is purportedly planning to use standard, off-the-shelf Caterpillar engines. And while an early press release described Scuderi Clean Energy as “a wholly owned subsidiary of Scuderi Group,” the current Scuderi/ESG Clean Energy, LLC, appears to have been created later as its own (nominally) independent entity, led by Nick Scuderi.) As the emailed excuses in the Hino dispute suggested, this pivot to “clean energy” and electric power generation had been in the works for some time, enabling Scuderi Clean Energy to hit the ground running by signing a deal with Holyoke Gas and Electric, a small utility company owned by the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts (population 38,238) in December 2015. The basic idea was that Scuderi Clean Energy would install a large natural-gas generator and associated equipment on a vacant lot and use it to supply Holyoke Gas and Electric with supplemental electric power, especially during “peak demand periods in the summer.”26 But it appears that, from day one, Holyoke had its doubts. In its 2015 annual report (p. 80), the company wrote (emphasis added): In December 2015, the Department contracted with Scuderi Clean Energy, LLC under a twenty (20) year [power purchase agreement] for a 4.375 MW [megawatt] natural gas generator. Uncertain if this project will move forward; however Department mitigated market and development risk by ensuring interconnection costs are born by other party and that rates under PPA are discounted to full wholesale energy and resulting load reduction cost savings (where and if applicable). Holyoke was right to be uncertain. Though its 2017 annual report optimistically said, “Expected Commercial Operation date is April 1, 2018” (p. 90), the 2018 annual report changed to “Expected Commercial Operation is unknown at this time” – language that had to be repeated verbatim in the 2019 and 2020 annual reports. Six years after the contract was signed, the Scuderi Clean Energy, now ESG Clean Energy, project still hasn’t produced one iota of power, let alone one dollar of revenue. What it has produced, however, is funding from retail investors, though perhaps not as much as the Scuderis could have hoped. Beginning in 2017, Scuderi Clean Energy managed to sell roughly $1.3 million27 in 5-year “TIGRcub” bonds (Top-Line Income Generation Rights Certificates) on the small online Entrex platform by advertising a 12% “minimum yield” and 16.72% “projected IRR” (based on 18.84% “revenue participation”) over a 5-year term. While we don’t know the exact terms of these bonds, we believe that, at least early on, interest payments were covered by some sort of prepaid insurance policy, while later payments depend on (so far nonexistent) revenue from the Holyoke project. But Scuderi Clean Energy had been aiming to raise $6 million to complete the project, not $1 million; indeed, this was only supposed to be the first component of a whole empire of “Scuderi power plants”28 that would require over $100 million to build but were supposedly already under contract.29 So far, however, nothing has come of these other projects, and, seemingly suffering from insufficient funding, the Holyoke effort languished. (Of course, it might have been more investor-friendly if Scuderi Clean Energy had only accepted funding on the condition that there was enough to actually complete construction.) Under the new ESG Clean Energy name, the Scuderis tried in 2019 to raise capital again, this time in the form of $5 million of preferred units marketed as a “5 year tax free Investment with 18% cash-on-cash return,” but, based on an SEC filing, it appears that the offering didn’t go well, raising just $150,000. With funding still limited and the Holyoke project far from finished, the clock is ticking: the $1.3 million of bonds will begin to mature in early 2022. It was thus fortunate that Viking came along when it did to pay ESG Clean Energy a $1.5 million upfront royalty for its incredible technology. Interestingly, ESG Clean Energy began in late 2020 to provide extremely detailed updates on its Holyoke construction progress, including items as prosaic as “Throughout the week, ESG had met with and continued to exchange numerous e-mails with our mechanical engineering firm.” With frequent references to the “very fluid environment,” the tone is unmistakably defensive. Consider the September update (emphasis not added): Reading between the lines, we believe the intended message is this: “We didn’t just take your money and run – honest! We’re working hard!” Nonetheless, someone appears to be unhappy, as indicated by the FINRA BrokerCheck report for one Eric Willer, a former employee of Fusion Analytics, which was listed as a recipient of sales compensation in connection with the Scuderi Clean Energy bond offerings. Willer may now be in hot water: a disclosure notice dated 3/31/2021 reads: “Wells Notice received as a preliminary determination to recommend disciplinary action of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and recommendation without due diligence in the sale of bonds issued by Scuderi Holyoke,” with a further investigation still pending. We wait eagerly for additional updates. Why does the saga of the Scuderis matter? Many Camber investors seem to have convinced themselves that the ESG Clean Energy “carbon capture” IP licensed by Viking has enormous value and can plausibly justify hundreds of millions of dollars of incremental market cap. As we explained above, we find this thoroughly implausible even without getting into Scuderi family history: in the end, the “technology” will at best add a smidgen of value to some generators in Canada. But track records matter too, and the Scuderi track record of failed R&D, delays, excuses, and alleged misuse of funds is worth considering. These people have spent six years trying and failing to sell power to a single municipally owned utility company in a single small city in western Massachusetts. Are they really about to end climate change? The Case of the Fictitious CFO Since Camber is effectively a bet on Viking, and Viking, in its current form, has been assembled by James Doris, it’s important to assess Doris’s probity and good judgment. In that connection, it’s noteworthy that, from December 2014 to July 2016, at the very start of Doris’s reign as Viking’s CEO and president, the company’s CFO, Guangfang “Cecile” Yang, was apparently fictitious. (Covering the case in 2019, Dealbreaker used the headline “Possibly Imaginary CFO Grounds For Very Real Fraud Lawsuit.”) This strange situation was brought to light by an SEC lawsuit against Viking’s founder, Tom Simeo; just last month, a US district court granted summary judgment in favor of the SEC against Simeo, but Simeo’s penalties have yet to be determined.30 The court’s opinion provided a good overview of the facts (references omitted, emphasis added): In 2013, Simeo hired Yang, who lives in Shanghai, China, to be Viking’s CFO. Yang served in that position until she purportedly resigned in July 2016. When Yang joined the company, Simeo fabricated a standing resignation letter, in which Yang purported to “irrevocably” resign her position with Viking “at any time desired by the Company” and “[u]pon notification that the Company accepted [her] resignation”…Simeo forged Yang’s signature on this document. This letter allowed Simeo to remove Yang from the position of CFO whenever he pleased. Simeo also fabricated a power of attorney purportedly signed by Yang that allowed Simeo to “affix Yang’s signature to any and all documents,” including documents that Viking had to file with the SEC. Viking represented to the public that Yang was the company’s CFO and a member of its Board of Directors. But “Yang never actually functioned as Viking’s CFO.” She “was not involved in the financial and strategic decisions” of Viking during the Relevant Period. Nor did she play any role in “preparing Viking’s financial statements or public filings.” Indeed, at least as of April 3, 2015, Yang did not do “any work” on Viking’s financial statements and did not speak with anyone who was preparing them. She also did not “review or evaluate Viking’s internal controls over financial reporting.” Further, during most or all of the Relevant Period, Viking did not compensate Yang despite the fact that she was the company’s highest ranking financial employee. Nevertheless, Simeo says that he personally paid her in cash. Yang’s “sole point of contact” at Viking was Simeo. Indeed Simeo was “the only person at Viking who communicated with Yang.” Thus many people at Viking never interacted with Yang. Despite the fact that Doris has served as Viking’s CEO since December 2014, he “has never met or spoken to Yang either in person or through any other means, and he has never communicated with Yang in writing.” … To think Yang served as CFO during this time, but the CEO and other individuals involved with Viking’s SEC filings never once spoke with her, strains all logical credulity. It remains unclear whether Yang is even a real person. When the SEC asked Simeo directly (“Is it the case that you made up the existence of Ms. Yang?”) he responded by “invoking the Fifth Amendment.”31 While the SEC’s efforts thus far have focused on Simeo, the case clearly raises the question of what Doris knew and when he knew it. Indeed, though many of the required Sarbanes-Oxley certifications of Viking’s financial statements during the Yang period were signed by Simeo in his role as chairman, Doris did personally sign off on an amended 2015 10-K that refers to Yang as CFO through July 2016 and includes her complete, apparently fictitious, biography. Viking has also disclosed the following, which we believe pertains to the Yang affair (emphasis added): In April of 2019, the staff (the “Staff”) of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement notified the Company that the Staff had made a preliminary determination to recommend that the SEC file an enforcement action against the Company, as well as against its CEO and its CFO, for alleged violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder [laws that pertain to securities fraud] during the period from early 2014 through late 2016. The Staff’s notice is not a formal allegation or a finding of wrongdoing by the Company, and the Company has communicated with the Staff regarding its preliminary determination. The Company believes it has adequate defenses and intends to vigorously defend any enforcement action that may be initiated by the SEC.32 Perhaps the SEC has moved on from this matter and will let Doris and Viking off the hook, but the fact pattern is eyebrow-raising nonetheless. A similarly troubling incident came soon after the time of Yang’s “resignation,” when Viking’s auditing firm resigned, withdrew its recent audit report, and wrote a letter “advising the Company that it believed an illegal act may have occurred” – because of concerns that had nothing to do with Yang. First, Viking accounted for the timing of a grant of shares to a consultant in apparent contradiction of the terms of the written agreement with the consultant – a seemingly minor issue. But, under scrutiny from the auditor, Viking “produced a letter… (the version which was provided to us was unsigned), from the consultant stating that the Agreement was invalidated verbally.” Reading between the lines, the “uncomfortable” auditor suspected that this letter was a fake, created just to get him off Viking’s back. In another incident, the auditor “became aware that seven of the company’s loans…were due to be repaid” in August 2016 but hadn’t been, creating a default that would in turn “trigger[] a cross-default clause contained in 17 additional loans” – but Viking claimed it “had secured an oral extension to the loans from the broker-dealer representing the lenders by September 6, 2016” – after the loans’ maturity dates – “so the Company did not need to disclose ‘the defaults under these loans’ after such time since the loans were not in default.” It’s easy to see why an auditor would object to this attitude toward financial disclosure – no need to mention a default in August as long as you can secure a verbal agreement resolving it by September! Against this backdrop of disturbing behavior, the fact that Camber just dismissed its auditing firm three weeks ago on September 16th, even with delisting looming if the company can’t become current again with its SEC filings by November, seems even more unsettling. Have Camber and Viking management earned investors’ trust? Conclusion It’s not clear why, back in 2017, Lucas Energy changed its name to “Camber” specifically, but we’d like to think the inspiration was England’s Camber Castle. According to Atlas Obscura, the castle was supposed to help defend the English coast, but it took so long to build that its “advanced design was obsolete by the time of its completion,” and changes in the local environment meant that “the sea had receded so far that cannons fired from the fort would no longer be able to reach any invading ships.” Still, the useless castle was “manned and serviced” for nearly a century before being officially decommissioned. Today, Camber “lies derelict and almost unheard of.” But what’s in a name? Article by Kerrisdale Capital Management Updated on Oct 5, 2021, 12:06 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//mixi.media/data/js/95481.js"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkOct 5th, 2021

These Children Are U.S. Citizens. They Need Help, But They Can’t Get the Child Tax Credit

Ivan, just 6 months old, bounces in his baby rocker as a Spanish-language cartoon plays on TV. The living room is small but full, dominated by a tree branch with plastic red blossoms that Ivan’s mother, Sara, made. She asks her 9-year-old daughter, Luz, to leave the room. She’s about to explain something she doesn’t… Ivan, just 6 months old, bounces in his baby rocker as a Spanish-language cartoon plays on TV. The living room is small but full, dominated by a tree branch with plastic red blossoms that Ivan’s mother, Sara, made. She asks her 9-year-old daughter, Luz, to leave the room. She’s about to explain something she doesn’t want her daughter to ever think about again: the event that set off a chain of other events that led to them ending up in southwest Detroit with no money, no way to get around and no identification papers. Without those papers Ivan can’t qualify for any of the assistance the U.S. government provides for its citizens, because they can’t prove he—or they—exist. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Sara, 27, and her daughter came to the U.S. from the Michoacán region of Mexico, under the asylum program. The father of her daughter, she says, had started selling and using drugs, and one night beat her while their daughter was in the home. They escaped to her relatives’ home, but her husband, concerned that she would report him to the police, monitored her every move. “I just stepped out of the house and he was there,” she says, in Spanish. “So I couldn’t do anything.” Fearing she was endangering her family if she stayed, she fled to the Arizona border, where she was granted provisional asylum, had her passport and all her identification papers taken, was put in an ankle monitoring bracelet and sent to live with a cousin in Chicago. (TIME has agreed to use only the first names of the women in this story, to protect their safety.) In order to get a Mexican passport for her daughter, to complete the asylum requirements, Sara needed a signature from the girl’s father. When she tried to obtain that in 2019, she discovered he had been murdered. She was told by her state-supplied immigration lawyer that with her husband’s demise, she was no longer in danger, and therefore her asylum case was closed and she needed to return to Mexico. Sara says her family warned her, however, that her husband’s brothers had been killed too, along with one of their wives, and his sisters were now seeking asylum. She cut off her ankle bracelet and fled from Chicago to Michigan with a new boyfriend, also Mexican, also in the U.S. without documents. (TIME has confirmed her account with relatives in Mexico.) A year or so afterwards, they had a son. Read More: As Many Americans Get COVID-19 Vaccines and Financial Support, Undocumented Immigrants Keep Falling Through the Cracks For the last three months, millions of U.S. families have gotten a payment of up to $300 for each child in their home from the Internal Revenue Service. There will be one each month until the end of 2021. They are advance tax credits, part of a new program by the Biden Administration touted as the boldest attempt in decades to try to help impoverished families, especially those for whom the pandemic had taken a very harsh toll. Every American citizen child qualifies for this benefit, even those from what is called “mixed status” families—those with some undocumented members. This is a reflection of the twin beliefs that (a) vulnerable children should be helped, no matter their circumstances and (b) that raising children out of grinding poverty is good for the long term economic growth of any country. Children are also the mostly likely age of American to be in poverty. A new Census Bureau report found that 44% of American children experienced at least two consecutive months of poverty between 2013 and 2016, even before the pandemic. Almost immediately after the first payments landed, the US Census Bureau’s monthly Pulse survey detected a drop in “food insufficiency”—the fancy term for people not having enough to eat—and in its measurement of people finding it hard to pay their weekly bills. Instead of 11% of kids going hungry, only 8% were. The improvement was only evident in homes with children, which means that the CTC payments were likely the cause. “There’s been no other social program that has reached this many families this quickly in the history of the country,” says Luke Shaefer, a professor of Social Work and the Director of the Poverty Solutions Center at the University of Michigan, and the co-author, with Kathryn Edin, of the seminal work on American poverty, $2 a Day. In 2018, the two of them, with other scholars, co-authored a paper recommending monthly cash payments, which is seen as one of the bases for the current administration’s program. Because Ivan was born in the U.S., his family qualifies for the credit, money that would help them find their footing, and move out of the unstable financial situation in which they live. But they didn’t get it. They are just one example of an extremely vulnerable household that has not been reached by the new program. The reasons are not novel. An analysis by the Urban Institute in 2019 found that a quarter of people living in poverty do not receive support from any government program. Welfare programs have always suffered from “last mile” issues: a legion of obstructions between the funds available and the families who need them. In many ways, the distribution of the CTC is offering an object lesson in the obstacles America faces when helping its poorest citizens. Cutting child poverty, for some In order to survive, Sara and families like hers live in a kind of nether world of informal economies and networks. Apart from her daughter’s bilingual public school, the household has almost zero contact with any institutions, government or otherwise. It’s necessary for them to be as invisible as possible to the authorities. Ivan’s dad is ferried to and from work with other laborers in a bus. He is paid in cash. They have a car but cannot drive anywhere because they do not have regulation license plates, and cannot afford to be pulled over. Sara’s biggest nightmare is being separated from either of her children; the American one, who is legally allowed to abide in the U.S. whatever happens to his mother, or the Mexican one, who might be separated from her, were Sara to be detained. It’s not like they don’t pay any taxes: many undocumented workers do. Magdalena, who lives in the Bronx, New York, has paid tax at her job in a grocery store for years. She has four children aged from 2 to 15, all born in New York City, after she escaped across the border 17 years ago. Her children need school uniforms and books, but she can’t afford those as well as the rent on her wages now that she is working part-time because her childcare was very limited during the pandemic. She can barely even cover the childcare she has. The CTC would pay her family $1100 a month, but she cannot figure out how to get it. “What we’re doing so far is not perfect,” says Shaefer. “There are people who are being left out.” Because it’s a tax credit, the money is sent to people who have filed taxes, and it has taken a little while for that news to filter out and for people to get their paperwork in order. “The second problem stems from residential complexity and bank account instability that are common among low-income people,” he says. Families who have recently moved to a shelter or started doubling up with other family members, or those whose bank balance went into arrears or were overwhelmed with bank fees might find that the money has been directed to an old address or closed bank account. “That’s something,” says Shaefer, “That is still going to require a lot of work.” Read More: 6 Ways To Use the Child Tax Credit Payments, According to the Experts (Who Are Also Parents) Some critics note that the methods the government is using to distribute funds are long overdue for an update. “It’s just a generation after generation after generation of doing aid through the same large not very nuanced poverty administration systems,” says Tyler Hall, director of communications at GiveDirectly, a non profit that helps donors give simple cash to people in need. Because the administration opted to give the money via the IRS, a large amount of money was sent out widely and very quickly, but not necessarily very accurately. “Prioritizing operational considerations and ease of access stymies a number of the administration’s best ideas,” says Hall. Before the first payment, the government set up a website for folks who had never paid tax so they could still claim the money. But it was loaded with bureaucratic language and not mobile friendly, even though phones are much more widespread in low income communities than computers. As the second payment rolled around, the administration, with the help of Code For America, set up a different website, which is due to go live in “the next few weeks,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Treasury. Critics also claim the credits were poorly advertised, utilizing services like Twitter and eschewing old school methods like radio advertisements and mailers, which tend to be where those whose lives are more precarious get their information. And Rosario Alzayadi, a fieldworker with the Detroit agency Starfish, says once she finds these stricken families, it takes a while to build their trust. “When we go to the homes, we kind of see what’s going on,” she says. “But sometimes it takes us a long time to know the family needs.” Many of her clients were unaware they are eligible for reduced-cost internet access, for example, or that even if they’re undocumented, they can still file taxes, and thus become eligible for benefits for their American born children, among others. “Unfortunately,” notes Hall, “the vulnerable will always be the hardest to reach.” Families need more time, experts say Until the pandemic, Sara worked in light construction, but now she stays home. The couple has bought one of Detroit’s many derelict homes, which can cost just a few thousand dollars, and are renovating it themselves. A social worker who is trying to help Sara’s American-born son qualify for the CTC through his father, is gamely dealing with a legion of setbacks. His Mexican passport has expired, the nearest consulate moved from downtown Detroit to Madison Heights, a three hour round trip by public transit. If he can get an appointment (consulates are backed up), and figure out how to travel there (the social worker says she is asking one of her siblings to drive them), get a day off work (his job offers none), and get enough forms of ID to qualify for a passport, it’s possible he can also get a ITIN, a taxpayer number. If he can then wade through enough forms to file a tax return, and get his son’s American birth certificate, Ivan may eventually qualify for some federal help. That’s if the program lasts beyond the end of the year. Read More: Americans Need Recurring Stimulus Checks Until the Pandemic Is Over In some ways Sara is among the lucky ones. He family unit is stable. She dreams of being an interior designer and cabinet maker. Maria, another mother in Michigan with three American-born children under 5, cannot afford those dreams. She and her children’s father do not live together, but he currently pays the rent. Even if all the obstacles to getting the CTC could be overcome, it’s not clear who would get the money. Maria, 26, who first came to the U.S. with her mother to escape the violence of her father, she says, has no work and is reluctant to search for any, because she has no childcare or transport. So she stays home all day, venturing out only occasionally to take the children on the long walk to the nearest grocery store for food, and worries about her elderly mother, who returned to Mexico after her father died and whose health is frail. Despite the program’s shortcomings, Shaefer, the poverty researcher, sees the advanced CTC as a profoundly important development. “I’m just incredibly excited that we have the scaffolding in place, that I think we can continue to improve,” he says. “It’s unprecedented in history that we would have a program that went out to this many families. And the initial evidence is really strong that it’s working in the ways that we think it should be working.” One side benefit Shaefer and other researchers were hoping for is that more families would come out of the shadows, so that they could be reached by social service agencies. The lure of free money is pretty strong, and Sara and other families seem committed to figuring out how to get themselves documented. The IRS is not allowed to share information on the families with other government agencies, whether it’s ICE or Medicaid, but activists hope that the interaction will help them gain some trust in government institutions. Alzayadi, the social worker, says she was inspired to work undocumented families, because as a young mother of four, a home visitor found her, encouraged her to put her situation to rights and showed her the steps she needed to take to get help. In an encouraging sign, a larger number of families applied for and received the August payment than the 35 million who got July payment. One of the unanticipated side effects of the CTC payments might be that it may entice those who have been difficult for social services to reach and the safety net to catch, to finally reach out for some help. —with reporting by Pablo Muñoz-Hernandez.....»»

Category: topSource: timeSep 21st, 2021

"Fight Like Hell With A Smile On Our Faces": CRT Debate Spurs Parents To Run For School Boards

"Fight Like Hell With A Smile On Our Faces": CRT Debate Spurs Parents To Run For School Boards Authored by Terri Wu via The Epoch Times, As parents across the nation fight to have a say in their children’s public education, more are taking things into their own hands: running for local school boards. Sean Kaufman (R), a candidate for the Cherokee County School Board with his son Sean Patrick (Courtesy of Sean Kaufman) Sean Kaufman in Woodstock, Georgia, is one of them. And his journey began with a school assignment on the American dream. Before that, he never felt any reason to question what schools were teaching his children, and he would always check on whether his kids had done what their teachers had asked them to do. “It was this ultimate trust [in the school system],” said the father of three, a small business owner and part-time professor at a local university. During the pandemic, however, the virtual learning in public schools allowed him a closer look at what his children were learning. In November 2020, his middle child Aiden, then a junior at the Woodstock High School, got an assignment in his advanced placement (AP) English class to write a paper on whether the American dream was dead or alive. He was also assigned to peer review two other students’ essays. “Every single child wrote the American dream was dead. And that really bothered me,” Kaufman told The Epoch Times about the three papers he read. While Aiden wrote that the American dream was “dwindling” and “unable to be fulfilled by the current American society,” his classmates described the ideal in their essays as a “delusion,” “fallacy,” and a “broken dream.” One cited George Floyd’s death as the reason the American dream was “an illusion” and “broken.” The 46-year-old black man died after a police officer held his knee on Floyd’s back and neck while pinned to the ground in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May 2020. His death prompted mass demonstrations across the globe as protestors called for racial justice. Kaufman asked his son why wrote the essay in that way. “Dad, it’s easier,” replied Aiden. “They [the teacher] give you argumentative papers [papers provided for background]. Three say the American dream is dead, and one says it’s kind of alive.” And according to Aiden, if he “went along” with the main theme that the American dream was dead, the teacher wouldn’t ask him to defend his position. Sean Kaufman (2nd R) with wife Jacqueline and sons Sean Patrick (L) and Aiden, and daughter Jamielynn (Courtesy of Sean Kaufman) Kaufman thought his public health students at the Kennesaw State University might know more than high schoolers. During the same week, he conducted an ad hoc survey in class, “How many of you believe the American dream is dead?” He asked his class of about 25 students. “Ninety percent raised their hands,” said Kaufman. “I was just blown away.” He asked his college students what the American dream was. Not getting an answer, he defined it for them, “The American dream is, in this country, if you work hard, you sacrifice, and you never quit, you will find some type of success in your life.” After giving the students his definition, he tried again, “How many of you still believe the American dream is dead?” Still, 90 percent raised their hands. “If you believe the American dream is dead in this country, why are you sitting in a college classroom?” he asked. The class was silent. Students looked shocked, and one said he hadn’t thought about that. To Kaufman, associating the death of George Floyd with the end of the American dream reflects a tenet of critical race theory (CRT). “CRT believes that everywhere you are, the system is rigged against persons of color.” CRT is a quasi-Marxist framework that argues that America is systematically racist. Supporters say it’s a college-level theory course not taught in K-12 public schools, yet critics beg to differ. Kaufman is not alone in Georgia in believing in the American dream. In a June 2021 poll, eighty-one percent of voters in Georgia agreed with the following statement: “Children should never be taught that their destiny and inherent value depends on their skin color. Instead, American schools should be teaching American children about the American Dream that is available to them.” The Georgia statewide survey was conducted by Heritage Action for America, the grassroots and advocacy arm of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. The percentages of agreement in Democrat, independent, and Republican groups were 62, 85, and 97, respectively. The survey’s sample size was 600, with 38 percent Democrats, 15 percent independents, and 41 percent Republicans. Running for School Board and Raising Awareness Fast forward to this February, an 11th-grade English language arts class assignment prompted Kaufman to file a formal lesson challenge and speak at the Cherokee County School Board meeting. The assignment asked students to read the book “Desiree’s Baby” by 19th-century American author Kate Chopin and write an extended ending. Students should “stay true to the tenet of the literary period” and write in the original third-person point of view or as any of the characters. In the short story written in 1893, Desiree, abandoned as a baby and raised by a wealthy family in Louisiana, married Armond, a son of a plantation owner. When it turned out that their baby’s skin was black, Armond blamed Desiree for being part black and drove her away. However, when burning Desiree’s belongings, he came across a letter between his parents that revealed the secret they kept from him: he was the one who was part black. Many students wrote from the perspective of Armond, according to Kaufman. He quoted one such writing during his speech at the February school board meeting, “Surrounding me were the negroes fueling the fire, their skin now a reminder that I was part of who they were.  I felt a horrid disgust inside of me. Oh, how I wished my skin would melt from my bones; I could never be one of them.” “What benefit is there, in my opinion, to make a child write as though he is a racist, bigoted slave owner hundreds of years later?” asked Kaufman. In response to his challenge, the school’s English department formed a review committee with members from the administration, professional learning community, and instruction personnel. A month later, the committee recommended the continuation of the assignment because students could choose any character’s point of view for their writing. It also suggested offering alternative assignments and hiding students’ names on papers during peer review at parents’ request. Kaufman didn’t think alternative assignments were the solution. And he didn’t believe the school board listened. Hence, he decided to run for the school board to become a voice for change. And no surprise, CRT is front and center in his first attempt at public service. Unlike in most states, some of Georgia’s school board elections are partisan. Kaufman was up against two other Republican candidates, Erin Ragsdale and Eric Richards, in the primary on May 24. The Republican incumbent didn’t run this time. None of the candidates got over half of the votes. Therefore, a runoff was scheduled for June 21, with early voting between June 13 and 17. The runoff winner will face the Democrat primary winner on Nov. 8. Kaufman finished second at the primary last month, earning him a seat in the runoff. A total of 6,493 votes were cast in the Republican primary, compared to 1,392 votes in the Democrat primary with only one candidate. Kaufman’s opponent Ragsdale, a pediatric speech-language pathologist, runs on “making the best [school district] even better.” She promised “continued support” of the district’s decision to ban CRT on her website. In May 2021, the county school district passed a resolution prohibiting the implementation of CRT. Kaufman said that many voters were thus confused and didn’t know that, although banned, CRT had been integrated into the schools’ teaching. “You integrate theory into class; you don’t teach the theory,” he said. “When people say, ‘CRT is not being taught,’ it’s a lie.” He said Democrats voted for his opponent because she wouldn’t change the status quo much. Primaries are open in Georgia, meaning voters can cross party lines to vote. The Epoch Times has reached out to Ragsdale for comment. “I love our children. Our children are born the way that they are born, and the way they are born is beautiful. They are perfect,” he said, explaining his determination to get CRT out of the county schools. “And to tell a child that the way they are born and the color of their skin dictates who they will be in this life, whether they will be an oppressed or an oppressor? “It breaks my heart.” After the primary, Richards, who ranked last, endorsed Kaufman. He had run his race on similar stances. If Kaufman can get the votes that previously supported Richards, he may reach the majority and defeat Ragsdale in the runoff. To achieve that, he has continued to post videos on social media, go door to door, and send mailers and text messages. “Every vote in runoff counts. Every vote,” he said. “It’s going to be decided very very closely. And I’m praying that Eric Richards’ voters get behind me.” However, losing the runoff wouldn’t mean the end of his efforts. He said he wanted to be the voice that brought about the change, “I have raised awareness in over 2,000 people in my community.” “That’s 2,000 people that believe and have been wakened and will continue to fight beside me as we continue to try and increase awareness about what’s happening in our community,” he added. Sean Kaufman (L) with his son Aiden (Courtesy of Sean Kaufman) ‘Are You For or Against CRT?’ While the outcome of Kaufman’s runoff has still to be decided, halfway across the nation in the south, Stephanie Elad has won her seat in the Frisco Independent School District (Frisco ISD), an area about 30 miles north of Dallas, Texas. It was an open seat as the incumbent didn’t seek re-election. She campaigned on academic excellence and teacher retention, and ran as a conservative in the non-partisan race. Although she didn’t run with CRT as her number one issue or mention the term CRT much, it was the number one question she was asked during door-knocking on Republican-leaning voters. The first question they often asked her was, “Are you for or against CRT?” “Ninety-five percent of them wanted me just to say I’m against it,” she told The Epoch Times. “I would say I’m against it. And then my next statement was, ‘And we do have it here in Frisco.’” Some people said they knew, but most were surprised. Then, Elad would provide examples of what she believed to be “CRT inspired.” “One of our high schools did a ‘privilege walk’ last fall. All you had to do is to tell people about that, and they were horrified.” In a privilege walk, students usually stand in a straight line and step forward if they have certain privileges, such as being white and a male. It’s an activity stemming from the viewpoint that society doesn’t offer equal access to opportunities. The school board seat is Elad’s first public service job. Her journey began in April 2021 at a school board meeting. She had signed up for public comment to talk about mask mandates but decided to change her topic after the then-board president Chad Rudy told the audience: “Please keep the discussion down. We’re trying to get through our meeting tonight. This is our discussion.” “There was a comment made that this was your meeting. I think this is our meeting,” she told trustees on the school board. The audience applauded. “I think the parents and the taxpayers deserve a little more respect,” she added. “This is our meeting.” The audience cheered again. Stephanie Elad (R) with Marvin Lowe, another conservative who also won a seat on the school board of the Frisco Independent School District in Texas. (Courtesy of Stephanie Elad) After that, people told her she should run for the school board. And she did. She announced the campaign in January and decided to “lean in” her conservative identity. She avoided getting into the debate whether CRT was or was not taught in Frisco schools but focused on the outcomes, such as sliding academic standards. For example, to her, the Integrated Language Arts (ILA) pilot program introduced in the 2021-21 school year that combined on-level and advanced-level learning into the same classroom to promote equity and inclusivity was an outcome of a CRT-inspired approach. The Frisco ISD serves 66,000 students and spans over two counties: Collin and Denton, which is more conservative than Collin. And all board seats are at-large, meaning they represent the entire ISD. This year’s school board election saw a big turnout of around 15,000, compared to 8,000 a year ago. Elad said everyone told her that, like many conservative municipal candidates before her, she would lose Collin and win Denton and that she needed to make sure the margin in Denton would compensate the loss in Collin. On the contrary, she defeated the runner-up—Dustin Paschal who identified student mental health issues as the biggest challenge—by 400 in Collin County and about 800 votes in Denton. “I have Democrats donate to me because they hate this [ILA pilot] program so much. Their kids are in it. Some of them have advanced kids, and some don’t,” she told The Epoch Times. “They just don’t like the program and the concept behind it. And they are concerned that it can spread to other subjects.” ‘Fight like Hell with a Smile on Our Faces’ While both Kaufman and Elad run for an open seat, many candidates run against incumbents. “School boards incumbents lost at nearly twice the historical average,” Ballotpedia, a website that tracks election results, reported at the end of May. The finding was based on candidates who ran on at least one of the three “conflict issues”—identified as race in education, COVID-19 responses, or sex and gender in schools—in 141 school districts in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin’s school board elections held on April 5. And the sample size involved 334 seats in those 141 districts. “I think this might be the first time that people are actually paying attention to school board elections,” Virginia Beach City school board member Victoria Manning told The Epoch Times. “Often, people go to the polls, and we’re passing out our literature, and I say, ‘Do you know whom you’re voting for school board?’ And they look at me, dazed and confused, ‘What’s that?’” Manning, a realtor, won her election in 2016 and was re-elected in 2020. All three issues—race, COVID-19, and sex education—boiled down to parental rights to her. “Ultimately, it boils down to parents having to be the ultimate decision-makers, parents and guardians.” According to Tiffany Justice, co-founder of advocacy group Moms for Liberty (M4L), parents are “acting preemptively at their local level” to protect their children and not waiting to fight against “harms that they see coming down the pipe.” Founded in January 2021, M4L now has over 90,000 members in 195 chapters across 37 states, Justice said. A third of the total membership has been new since November. Hawaii, Louisiana, and Connecticut are the latest states with new chapters. Justice said that her organization continues to grow across the country, focusing on “unifying, educating, and empowering parents to defend or protect their parental rights at all levels of government.” The battles were not all victories. M4L supported or endorsed over 40 school board candidates who won in the state of New York but also saw losses. For example, in Dutchess County, every candidate the organization endorsed lost. Justice described the journey as a “long road:” “We didn’t get to this place in America overnight, and it’s going to take time. But we have found that America’s government does not work without us involved.” Moms are getting creative, she said. She gave an example: at a chapter chair meeting in mid-May, one of the mothers said she got a meeting with the superintendent in her school district. Although angry, she made sure to sandwich her concerns with positive things she could say about the school district. And slowly, she found that the division leadership began addressing her concerns. “Our moms and dads know that we are fighting for the survival of America,” Justice told The Epoch Times. “There’s no greater national security threat to the United States than having a generation of children who are not able to read or discern [right from wrong] for themselves.” Her and M4L members’ responses? “Fight like hell with a smile on our faces. Get as many people out and encourage many parents to go out and vote to have their voices heard.” Tyler Durden Sun, 06/19/2022 - 19:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJun 19th, 2022

‘Duped’ Investors and Mishandled Layoffs Revealed in Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Better.com

By now, Better.com Founder and CEO Vishal Garg is no stranger to public scrutiny. Considering the backlash he gained for laying off  900 people weeks before Christmas over a Zoom call, the online mortgage company and its leader have had to weather several storms since then. Through a rollercoaster ride of significant labor cuts and… The post ‘Duped’ Investors and Mishandled Layoffs Revealed in Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Better.com appeared first on RISMedia. By now, Better.com Founder and CEO Vishal Garg is no stranger to public scrutiny. Considering the backlash he gained for laying off  900 people weeks before Christmas over a Zoom call, the online mortgage company and its leader have had to weather several storms since then. Through a rollercoaster ride of significant labor cuts and a shifting lending market, Garg and Better.com were dealt another blow that could have untold implications for the company’s future. On Tuesday, Sarah Pierce, Better’s former executive vice president for sales and operations, filed a lawsuit against the company and Garg, alleging that they “duped” investors and shareholders by misrepresenting its business and financial forecasts. “Since the May 2021 SPCA Transaction announcement, CEO Garg has engaged in inappropriate and potentially illegal conduct, intended to ensure that the SPAC Transaction closes and that the investors do not exercise their contractual rights right to withdraw from that transaction due to a material adverse change in Better’s financial condition,” read an excerpt from the lawsuit. The Softbank-based start-up planned to go public through a merger with blank-check firm Aurora Acquisition Corp in a deal valued at $7.7 billion. According to Wall Street Journal reports, the planned merger was delayed late last year and has yet to close. Softbank did not immediately respond to RISMedia requests for comment on this story. The lawsuit accuses Garg of misrepresenting Better’s organic internet traffic for the company’s “direct to consumer funded loans” while also knowingly making false statements about the company’s timeline to become profitable. The case file stated that Pierce and Better CFO Kevin Ryan provided projections of the company’s performance and “Advised CEO Garge and General Counsel Calamari, that it was unlikely that Better would achieve profitability in 2022.” “Despite this detailed analysis, CEO Garg represented to the Board of Directors and investors—without any basis—that the company would achieve profitability by the end of the first quarter of 2022.” Despite rising interest rates and a shifting market, the suit claims that Garg directed Pierce and other executives to ramp up hiring instead of a suggested cost-cutting and reducing the workforce. “CEO Garg overruled Pierce, stating to Pierce and other executives that company sales would increase because ‘President Biden will die of COVID,’ this will cause interest rates to fall and save the company from its worsening financial condition,” read the lawsuit. The alleged predictions didn’t happen, and Better saw its sales decline like several other mortgage companies that have struggled amid the shrinking refinance origination market. According to recent documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Better incurred a net loss of $303.8 million in 2021 despite earning $1.2 billion last year. The company indicated in the document that its financial performance deteriorated due to numerous factors, including increasing interest rates, reorganizing our sales and operations teams, and the effects of negative media coverage amid its controversial workforce reductions. “On December 1, 2021, CEO Garg terminated 900 employees via a Zoom call in which he disregarded company-approved talking points that specifically categorized the event as a reduction in force and made the event about himself,” read an excerpt from Pierce’s lawsuit. It went on to state, “In an attempt to deflect blame, CEO Garg continued to state that the terminated employees had stolen from the company to leadership, to the press, and on social media forums such as Blind. He also began to state to the Board of Directors and investors that the company would achieve profitability in Q1 2021, despite Pierce and other senior leaders explicitly stating that this outcome was not possible.” Pierce, who parted ways with Better in February for undisclosed reasons, alleges in the suit that she was driven out of her role after she repeatedly raised concerns about Garg’s misleading statements regarding the company’s financial standing, market forecasts, and its labor cuts. The lawsuit also accuses Garg and Better of placing Pierce on an “unexplained leave of absence,” submitting a “resignation letter” on her behalf, and eventually firing her without reason, severance, or benefits. In response to RISMedia inquiries about the lawsuit, Better.com’s lawyer says, “We don’t comment on ongoing litigation. However, we have reviewed the claims in the complaint and strongly believe them to be without merit. The company is confident in our financial and accounting practices, and we will vigorously defend this lawsuit.” While Pierce’s lawsuit marks the latest blow to the online mortgage company, it also presents a new challenge for the company, which has tried to repair its image since 2021. As 2022 has unfolded, more details have come to light regarding Better’s troubles. In a leaked video of a town hall meeting that immediately followed the company’s infamous Zoom-call events, Garg admitted that he made several mistakes within the past two years, including over-hiring and bringing in “the wrong people.” “I was not disciplined over the past 18 months,” he said in the video. “We made $250 million last year, and we probably pissed away $200 million. We probably could’ve made more money last year and been leaner, meaner, and hungrier.” In the same video, Garg referred to his vision of a “leaner and meaner” company that would spend time “grinding the business forward” in what he characterized as a bloodbath in the mortgage industry. Better was among several mortgage lending companies that benefited from the past two years of hyperactive home buying and refinancing activity under record-low mortgage rates, resulting in a surge in hiring and production. It’s also among the list of companies that have been downsizing its staff after a glut of hiring to account for demand in the pandemic. In previous SEC filings, the company has also admitted that “company culture” issues have contributed to its performance and financial decline. Better indicated that it addressed those challenges by hiring a third-party company to conduct a cultural assessment and recruiting a Chief Human Resources Officer. The post ‘Duped’ Investors and Mishandled Layoffs Revealed in Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Better.com appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaJun 10th, 2022

A federal judge just denied a student-loan borrower"s request to postpone her $95,000 debt cancellation hearing as she undergoes cancer treatment

Unless Heather Smart can prove she's medically unable to resume her trial, she must proceed with her student-loan bankruptcy discharge case. Silhouette of college graduateGetty Images In March, a judge agreed to postpone Heather Smart's student-loan bankruptcy hearing due to medical treatment. But he just ruled she must proceed with her trial unless she can prove she is medically unable. Biden promised to reform the bankruptcy process, but it's continuing to be a burden for borrowers. Three months ago, a federal judge ruled Heather Smart can postpone her hearing to get rid of her student debt through bankruptcy as she undergoes cancer treatment. Now, that same judge says it's time for Smart to go to court.Smart filed for bankruptcy of her $95,181.92 student debt load in December because of unemployment caused by "receiving extensive medical care and treatment for myriad issues relating to several forms of aggressive and invasive cancer, as well as a blood disorder," according to a court filing. She claimed her situation prevented her from making sufficient income to pay off her loans.The Education Department wrote at the time that Smart did not qualify for bankruptcy discharge because when her "health improves, she has college degrees and is capable of maintaining full-time employment and can maintain an appropriate standard of living while repaying her loans." But a US bankruptcy judge for the Southern District of Texas allowed her to postpone her hearing while she was undergoing treatments.Last week, Smart requested further postponement of her hearings because she "is currently in the lengthy process of diagnosing, planning, and executing a treatment plan for myriad medical issues," including cancer and a blood disorder, per the court filing. She is waiting to find out whether her disability is permanent, which could significantly impact the outcome of her student-loan repayment. The judge denied Smart's request."Trial in this case has been set and then reset on numerous occasions," Judge Jeffrey Norman wrote. "This matter must be concluded. An indefinite suspension does not do justice."He added that the court will consider an extension of the trial date only if Smart "is medically unable to participate virtually," and she must prove that inability by "reliable evidence and give an estimate of when she will be able to appear for trial."Since Smart could not provide evidence of her medical condition at the time due to her doctors being unavailable, she requested time to re-file claims, and the judge granted her that request.The Education Department also granted Smart a Cancer Treatment Deferment on her loans, meaning she is not required to pay off her debt through October 2023 and interest will not grow — but even being in long-term deferment, the judge is still requesting she proceed with the trial. Proving bankruptcy on student loans in court is no easy feat. The borrower must prove an "undue hardship" standard, that requires them to show that they cannot maintain a minimal standard of living, their circumstances will likely not improve, and they have made a good-faith effort in repaying their debt. But successfully meeting that standard is rare and many borrowers have been blocked from relief because of it, which is why Biden's administration promised to reform the bankruptcy process."The process doesn't work well. It needs to be reformed … and we're committed to doing that," Federal Student Aid head Richard Cordray told a House education subcommittee last fall. "There have been discussions already with the Justice Department. They, too, are willing to have us revise our approach."Since then, though, the Education Department has continued to oppose borrowers' discharge requests in court. Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal said during a virtual discussion on student debt on Monday that "Secretary Cardona has said we want to review that policy, and that is something that is underway now. There's an interagency process for that, it's not solely within the department's discretion, and we're working quite hard on that. actually."But advocates say the process needs to be sped up. Dan Zibel, vice president and chief counsel of Student Defense — an organization that advocates for borrowers' rights — said in a statement that "time after time, we continue to see the government erecting barriers that make it harder for bankrupt borrowers seeking a discharge of their student loans.""Although the Department of Education has publicly acknowledged the problems, to date, we have seen little in terms of concrete policy changes, and borrowers facing extreme hardship are paying the price," Zibel said. "Enough is enough."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJun 7th, 2022

The Depp Trial & The Demise Of The ACLU

The Depp Trial & The Demise Of The ACLU Authored by Jonathan Turley, In this week’s massive defamation award to actor Johnny Depp, his ex-wife Amber Heard was left holding a bill for $15,000,000. Even after a reduction for her own award and a statutory reduction of the punitive damage portion, Heard is still looking at $8,350,000 in damages. Many view that amount (which is $1.35 million more than her divorce settlement) to be justified in light of the damage caused to Depp’s reputation and career. However, the stain of  this verdict should be shared with others, even if they avoided the sting of actual damages. That includes many in the media (including the Washington Post staff) who rushed to paint Heard as a victim and Depp as an abuser. Yet, the greatest condemnation should be reserved for the organization that not only pushed that narrative but actually helped draft the defamatory column: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU’s role in this scandal emerged during the trial. While Heard was accused of reneging on her public pledge to give the divorce settlement to charity, she did give a large donation to the ACLU. The organization then made her “Ambassador for women’s rights, with a focus on gender-based violence.” During the trial, evidence was introduced on how the ACLU staff helped Heard crafted the defamatory column.  ACLU staffer Robin Shulman said in an email to Heard that she tried to capture Heard’s “fire and rage” in a draft. It was also reported that the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, and legal director, David Cole, also made contributions. ACLU staffer Jessica Weitz acknowledged in an email that she was aware that there was the chance of litigation and told Heard “I want to make sure nothing was said in here that puts you in jeopardy with your [non-disclosure agreement].” It is not uncommon for celebrities to use ghost writers and editors. However, many of us questioned what Romero and the ACLU were doing in the middle of this celebrity scandal. The answer is that the ACLU long ago abandoned its celebrated legacy as a fearless organization fighting for civil liberties and individual rights. Under Romero, the ACLU has become openly political and increasingly scandal-prone. The political agenda has corrupted the organization in the sense of cutting it adrift from the strong principles that once held it firmly to its original mission.  I have no doubt that the new direction is motivated by deeply held political values. I also do not believe that it has taken this course for purely monetary gains or donations. It is corrupted in the sense of debasing its legacy. The ACLU once represented something more than just another political advocacy group. As with many other long-standing supporters of the ACLU, I have been critical of the politicization of the ACLU in the last decade. Many of the “Old guard” at the ACLU left the organization as it took on a public agenda, including abandoning its long tradition of supporting the least popular in our society in favor of individual rights. Those critics include former ACLU former head Ira Glasser, who questioned whether the ACLU still maintains its defining commitment to free speech values. This trend was evident in its painfully nuanced approach to “hate speech” after criticism following the Charlottesville protests.  Free speech protection was once the touchstone of the ACLU which was fearless in its unpopular advocacy. It now seems like an area of open retreat for the organization. Some of us were particularly alarmed when the ACLU filed to oppose due process rights for students at our colleges and universities, particularly in the imposition of a higher and more consistent evidentiary standard.  ACLU filed suit to try to block the increased due process protections mandated by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in her proposed reforms.  I have long been a critic of the rollback on due process on our campuses and noted the absence of the ACLU in leading this fight. The ACLU sounded much like its historic opponents in decrying the scourge of too much due process as inhibiting greater enforcement. With this free fall at ACLU has come an endless line of controversies like an ACLU staffer encouraging activists to “break” Sen. Krysten Sinema (D., Ariz.) and another staffer opposed the admission into college of Nicholas Sandmann. At points, it has become a parody of its own self like celebrating the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by editing her words as offensive. The payment of the large donation by Heard to the ACLU only magnified concerns over what seemed like an all-hands-on-deck effort to support her public claims. Heard publicly pledged $3.5 million to the ACLU and previously claimed that she made good on the pledge.  The trial showed that $1.3 million was donated in her name and it appears that $500,000 likely came from Elon Musk, who once dated Heard. The ACLU has reportedly filed an action against Depp for $86,000 in reimbursement for the costs of looking for evidence in its files. The ACLU was once the North Star for those of us in the civil liberties community.  The loss of the organization as an independent and apolitical voice in our legal system has been devastating. The emergence of the ACLU at the heart of one of the most sordid celebrity trials in history is the final measure of the decline of this once celebrated civil liberties group. It was not easy to get here. It took the determined work of former President Susan N. Herman, current president Deborah Archer, and Romeo to erase decades of apolitical and impactful advocacy on behalf of civil liberties for all. The trial put the new ACLU on full review as just another political advocacy group. What many saw was not the courageous group that once defended the free speech rights of Nazis. Instead, what they saw was an organization seemed to be pandering to celebrities. In the Depp-Heard trial, the ACLU finally hit the rock bottom as an organization in free fall. It ultimately was the reputation of the ACLU, not Depp, that may have suffered the most in the trial. Ironically, for critics, Amber Heard became the fitting face and ambassador of the ACLU: conflicted, confused, and corrupted. Tyler Durden Fri, 06/03/2022 - 12:05.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJun 3rd, 2022

Brian Moynihan: People Have Not Spent Down Their Stimulus Money Yet

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) Chairman & CEO Brian Moynihan on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET) today, Monday, May 23rd for Davos 2022 in Davos, Switzerland. Following is a link to video on CNBC.com: Bank Of America CEO Brian Moynihan: People Have Not Spent […] Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) Chairman & CEO Brian Moynihan on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET) today, Monday, May 23rd for Davos 2022 in Davos, Switzerland. Following is a link to video on CNBC.com: Bank Of America CEO Brian Moynihan: People Have Not Spent Down Their Stimulus Money Yet ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Lots of folks making their way here. A little bit different than in the past, but I think we’re gonna get some insights into what’s going on in the economy around the globe. Lots of concerns, of course, about inflation, about Ukraine, Russia, this news this morning that President commented on with Taiwan already making its way around. President Zelenskyy kicked off the Davos session this morning, piping in from Ukraine this morning. But nonetheless, as we said, we’ve got Brian Moynihan in just a moment but we have so many others joining us but we have Brian on the set with us as we speak so why don’t we get right to him and begin this conversation, get the mood of what’s really happening here. Brian, it’s nice to see you. if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Henry Singleton Series in PDF Get the entire 4-part series on Henry Singleton in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q1 2022 hedge fund letters, conferences and more BRIAN MOYNIHAN: It’s good to see you, Andrew. It's a beautiful setting and you can hear the bells. SORKIN: It's windy, it's windy and things may go down. That's the only thing we should worry about. I've already been to one dinner. There seems to be, I hate to say it, a lot of pessimism, a lot of sense that inflation is not transitory and that this is going to be extended and prolonged. What are you seeing in the last couple of weeks in terms of at the bank, in terms of bank account balances, what are you seeing now? MOYNIHAN: Well, what we're seeing is, more importantly, the balances are balances continue to be stable and continue to grow year over year for the broad base of consumers. More importantly, the spending levels in May for the first few weeks are up 10% last May, and that is not as high as it would otherwise be because last May people pay taxes so it actually it’s a bigger base to grow from so year to date, they’re up 17% fairly standard in May they’re up 17%, the consumers continue to spend in the balances of our customers, they have more money in April, their balances grew up in March and March they grew over all the way back to mid last year. So the notion that people are spending the stimulus down isn't happening yet. It may happen but it hasn’t happened yet. SORKIN: Right so I was gonna say you we hear anecdotal reports. Here's some high frequency folks who are looking at things who have tried to suggest the last two or three weeks bank balances have started instead of rising to start to come down. Is that not the case? MOYNIHAN: It'll happen because people paying their taxes and so the reason why California has big surplus, a lot of taxes we pay in the US governments haven't been received so you're seeing especially among affluent customer frankly than the broader customers, people paying a lot of taxes and that happened in April. You saw the balances go down a little bit but that's the normal pattern year to year people will overread that and not really understand it. Every year, this quarter because in the month of April we all, everyone sends a bunch of money to the government and government survives off it and does good things with it. But that's that's what's happening. Generally stated though, if you compare this April to last April, it's up 8%. This May, the last May, is still up 8%. SORKIN: The other data point that you always have for us though is mortgages. What are you seeing there in terms of people's interest or people starting to pull back a little? MOYNIHAN: Well, mortgages have slowed down because frankly, the refi thing drops away right and so Americans just put out a paper the other day and what people have to realize about mortgages is all the fixed rate mortgages which are the dominant dominant part of them, don't change rates because rates go up. What the impact is on future mortgages so when people buy a house, will they be able to buy as big of a house. The reality is 200 basis point mortgage rise on a $300,000 house is $500 a month. The question is if you make 100,000, you got 6% income rise, it's the same amount of money and so what's different than this time when the raise rates rose in the 17, 18, 19 framework is that wages are rising three times what they're rising back then so people can keep up with. It's gonna be interesting, right now they slowed down all on a refi. The house purchases are still going through. SORKIN: So all this says what to you about this larger conversation that's having that we're having now about our economy. MOYNIHAN: So there's a lot of fear and worry about the Fed tightening in the federal slowdown in the economy. That is what they're going to do. And so our economists have this year predicted, everybody keeps moving, as the Fed has said they're gonna raise rates faster, everybody keeps moving their estimates down. Our economists said Friday there's a 1/3 chance of recession, those numbers get overquoted. If you'd asked them in the middle of ‘17, ‘18, they’d have said there’s a 15% to 20% chance of recession but nobody had it on their mind. The reality is, it's moved up. It's moved up because the government has to slow down and take on inflation. Inflation, you said transitory, it wasn't transitory last fall and that's when everybody was figuring it out. Now, they've got to move fast. They moved 50 last meeting they expect to move 50 two meetings. That is an unprecedent fast rate. The question is could they slow it down without tipping over? And that's what the debate is about. People get up in the morning, one side of the bed says it’s going to tip over people on the other side of the bed said we'll be fine. Our team believes we’ll grow this year and next year. And by the way, if you look at all the blue chip economists only one out of like 40 economists has a negative number this year, and nobody has one next year. And if you look at all the big firms, none of them have the negative quarters. So something is this the probability is rising, the fear is going up. But the reality is, is no one's really saying there'll be a recession in ’22 or ’23 yet. We’ll see what happens there. SORKIN: What’s Brian Moynihan saying? MOYNIHAN: We think the economy will slow down. But with this kind of spending and this kind of activity, the Fed has a tough job in this kind of employment tightness, the Fed has a tough job, but it's a job they have to they're getting after much faster than before and we'll have to see if they can get the balance right. SORKIN: Becky’s got a question back back in New York. Becks? BECKY QUICK: Hey, thanks Andrew. Brian, I see today that you are raising your minimum wage to $22 from the $21 it had been. This all kind of plays into it. People are having a tougher time keeping up with the costs that are rising everything from gasoline prices to food prices and it's great to see that but it also comes into this whole wage inflation spiral that that you see what's what's going on. Why do you feel the need to raise wages? What does this mean for your employee base, and then how does that kind of fit into the broader picture of inflation too? MOYNIHAN: So Becky today we announced, we had a pattern going from we announced from ‘20 to ’25, in the year of ’20 to ’25, a dollar each year, we moved it up and announced today to from what was gonna be October to June. But importantly, last week, we also announced for everybody making less 100,000 in our company, we increased our wages by 3%, 5%, 7% based on the years of service, so what we're really trying to do is say we need the best team to serve our clients and we're trying to make sure that we make make our teammates feel great about working at our company so with a $22 hour start wage, it's fairly straightforward. You get $45,000 a year if you're an individual, you pay about $100 a month for full medical care, you get a 7% dollar for dollar employer match, and $10,000 tuition reimbursement, if you have children $275 per child per month. These are all benefits because we want our team to be able to focus on their career here and stay with a company a long time and so we've raised in response to some pressures we've raised and we've hired 7,000 people in the first quarter. We aren’t having trouble hiring people, but it's really to make sure we stabilize and have the best team that we can have. QUICK: I mean that's fantastic and it definitely means good things for your team. I just tried to get to the broader issue of what this might mean and what it's going to take for people to be able to I mean real wages are dropping overall if you look at the numbers, the the inflationary pressures from CPI are eating away at any of the wage gains that people have gotten on average, not from your company, but on average. What what do you think about this? Does it concern you to watch that? MOYNIHAN: Well, that's that's the that's the question. So the labor market is tight and you're hearing stories about, you know, our turnover moved up to where it was in ‘19 and about a little bit higher and still well within what lower was like in ‘17 so we feel good about it. But the reality is when I talk to CEOs around the country getting people is number one issue. Labor market’s tight, there's two job openings for every job. Go into some of that real time data we've seen in one of our real time data sets a little less job postings, which may mean the markets easing but until that labor market eases the weight of wage growth is going to be strong and then the question is can they slow price appreciation in light of wage growth carries through for real wage growth. And that's, that's getting, especially with the market being down because it’s helped broadly people’s 401(k)s that create things these are all impacts on people's view. The reality though is they are changing their behavior as of last week, in other words, travel in the month of May up 40% over last year. Restaurants up are they spending less at retail goods? Yeah, it's flattish a little bit. But they're spending the money on experiences and doing things. So that's the conundrum and that's because frankly, a lot of them have the stimulus from before so the real pressure point here I think would be as we move to the fall unless you see some ease in the price appreciation and stabilization. So gas prices stabilized at some level, you know, and other things that people, grocery prices stabilized then I think people really will get much more concerned right now it's competitive out there as people are raising wages. SORKIN: But there's still stimulus, meaning that you think that a lot of these bank accounts still have some of that stimulus money and that— MOYNIHAN: So for our account holders in April, if you had if they had between $1,000 and $2,000, before the pandemic they had an average balance of $1,400 they had about $4,000 in April. If they had an average balance of $2,000 to $5,000 pre pandemic, they would carry about $35,000, they would carry $13,000 in balances. They haven’t spent them down yet and they grew 5% from March to April. This is— SORKIN: That’s a remarkable statistic. MOYNIHAN: Remember, we have 35 million checking customers so I'm not giving you a little tiny sample. I'm giving you a sample of a broad base of households in America. So what you're, and they’re all primary accounts and you’ve been seeing to Becky's point in our employment checks deposited, you know, our customers getting their, not our people, but other people you’re seeing their wages have grown 8% year over year. And so when you look at all that, that stimulus, the notion people start spending down, it’s been growing every month since last July. Will they spend it down? Probably but not right now. SORKIN: Another sort of Davosian question, always a big conversation here about ESG and lots of pledges have been made climate pledges and other things over the years here. Question is whether that is a sort of that was a something that happened during a boom times and what happens in a challenged economy meaning all these companies that said we're gonna do this, this and this over the next 5, 10 years, we're gonna spend billions of dollars. Do you think that that changes do you think they say, you know what, actually I can't do that or activists are calling up and saying, no you cannot just get, you gotta cut this stuff out. MOYNIHAN: So I think we believe at Bank of America it’s profits and purpose, not or. SORKIN: No I know— MOYNIHAN: And the key to that is we have to produce on earnings $7 billion in the first quarter and record earnings last year and we have to produce so when you think about it more broadly, think of the environmental commitments. We made our first environment commitment 2004. You think we went through some interesting times between 2004 and today and it went from 25 billion to 50 billion to 125 billion to 350 and now a trillion all financing our client’s transition. So what I think Andrew is more people will ebb and flow on this given the pace of things, the fear about energy drives more activity. Well, maybe other things. The reality is if people have done it right in a World Economic Forum here at the International Business Council which I chair has had these metrics we put out, 140 companies have signed on them. 72 are under second year disclosing all those laid out bear if you're not making progress, and people can see it. So whether it's whether it's women on boards, or whether it's diversity overall, or whether it's progress on environmental commitments, I think people will stick to them because they've aligned capitalism to achieving the goal. And by the way, these goals will not be achieved without the private sector doing it. The government doesn't have the money. SORKIN: But let me ask you, you were very ambitious around climate and specifically on fossil fuels, right? In terms of what what fossil fuel companies you would finance, what kind of projects you would finance. In this environment now where gas costs as much as it does and people look around and there's a question, was this the right call. MOYNIHAN: We finance oil and gas companies and we finance the green companies and sometimes it's the same company. You know, that's the interesting thing is even the oil companies have made major commitments to change some of that cash flow. Is it the right call? In a spot base, you’d say we wish we had more oil and you're seeing the production, the wells are coming up and the production starting to pick up here in the US and the Middle East and stuff and that will happen because the demand will be there and the price will be there, of course people are going to, this is a transition. We have to have energy for everybody. We have to have all kinds of energy, we have to build it. Meanwhile, we did $250 billion in financing last year. So during the pandemic kept growing, it will do that much or more this year. And so our clients have made and this is, what they say it’s a markets initiative, I work with we've we just had a meeting in London a couple of weeks ago, 100 CEOs in a room all have commitments, all driving is part of how they're driving their business. It's not some commitment. It's not charity. That's what, when people turned the switch from charity, which which is terrific and wonderful but doesn't give you enough money to aligning the business when they make a purchase commitment for sustainable aviation fuels, a purchase commitment for clean energy, or in our case, our commitment over multiple years to drive down our energy, our commitment will to build a power, all these are commitments that are gone. I mean, they're going on it's not like you reverse them because they're already working. SORKIN: Becks? QUICK: Brian, real quickly. Let's go back to the job market again. You mentioned that this is a situation where you think the job market could be easing a little bit not not quite as tight as it has been based on what you see with job postings. I mean it's been an employee's market for so long this has been a take, take your job and shove it market. Do you think that that is going to switch soon or how do you read that? What kind of other things are you watching to see on that front? MOYNIHAN: It's not gonna switch soon. So if you look at all those economists including ours, they still have the unemployment rate barely getting to 4% or maybe 3.5%, 3.6% at the end of next year. It's still going to be a very tight labor market, frankly, because in the US because we don't have, you know, we aren't getting more people and now, all the most of the workforces that pre-pandemic were at X are all back at workforce except for young people. So we got to pull them off the side, it’s the optimists say, we can pull more people in and that participation rate will go up and employment the population rate will go up and you're seeing some signs of that. Older people who said retired, wouldn’t come back. They did. They’re back at the same levels they were before older workers so there's optimism there. But frankly, that's one of the challenges the Fed has is the unemployment rate is projected by everybody be very tight in historical context and that then would make their job tougher because that wage inflation will be harder to tame. Goods, inflation may come down faster but wage inflation is gonna be a tough nut. SORKIN: Hey Joe. JOE KERNEN: Yeah Brian, thanks Andrew. Back to the ESG issue again and in light of what we're seeing with with some of the pushback against Larry Fink and maybe some of the other big money managers, managers that are voting shares from their own preferences it seems like some of their own causes. I don't know if it's that much different for a CEO that might steer the company, your company, for example, in a direction that he has a personal opinion on. And I'm just wondering, did you ever worry about that you're talking about a transition to clean energy, which may or may not have hindered financing for fossil fuel, for the fossil fuel industry in the United States. Now, you know, that's coming home to roost, obviously, where do you draw the line? Do you cut of gun makers, do you get involved with voting rights issues? These are all your own opinions as CEO, but it doesn't seem much different than what Larry Fink does, which is receiving a lot of pushback now. Should a, should a CEO be able to steer his company in a manner that that follows his politics? MOYNIHAN: Well, I don't follow my politics because most of you wouldn't even know what they were and the company wouldn't know it. So we have, we have 200,000 people and they represent every interest so we tend to take action when it means something to our teammates, but on the energy thing, I get a letter one day from people saying we're financing fossil fuels and we did underwriting for oil and gas companies. I get a letter the next day saying the opposite, you're cutting them off, and I went out with Senator Cramer out to to Fargo, North Dakota and talked to him about that that state has declared to be net zero by 2030 or ‘40 or something like that. They're building these huge carbon capture storage facilities. We're working with people in that to drive it back so there's gonna be a lot of competing ideas and competing things here. But the reality is we drive profits and purpose Joe, and that's how we run the company. And I'd simply say, if we did things that were good for our customers, you'd say that's fine. If you did things that were good for our teammates, you'd say that's fine. If you did things that were good for our shareholders, you’d say that's fine. If we did things that were good for our communities of which a bank depends on its communities to be successful to have customers, you’d say that’s fine. That's what we do and I don't think that's an unusual idea. It's an idea which has been around for a long time and it's it's, I did my first strategic plan laid out that way for a company in 1993 or 1994 or something like that. These are not new ideas. So I think the politics are completely different from actually driving the company for what society what's what society does, needs and how capitalism can help drive the right things for things that are economic based, are teammate based, and things like that and customer based and shareholder based. And that’s what we do, profits and purpose. Not or, and you can read my shareholder letter, I lay it out and I think our shareholders are backing it. SORKIN: Brian, before we let you go, gotta ask this is a topic that everybody seems to be talking about Elon Musk. You guys are actually backing the margin loan that's going to allow him to either buy Twitter or not. MOYNIHAN: You keep asking people that and they all say the same thing, it’s not our deal. You have to talk to the principals to figure out what’s going on. SORKIN: You think it’s gonna happen? MOYNIHAN: You have to talk— SORKIN: Let me ask you one other question related though. No, but here's here's this is a fascinating question. Margin loans. There's a big question about whether billionaires or anybody of great wealth should be able to use a loan that is not taxed, and still create effectively that value. I don't know if you saw Trevor Noah created a sort of viral video about this sort of goes to wealth tax, and whether effectively, money that we say is not really being used in any real way because it's not available actually does become available through a margin loan in this kind of context. What do you think about that? MOYNIHAN: Well, a couple of things. One is there's that that's the way the rules are, you can have a margin loan, Joe can have a margin loan, you can have a brokers account and borrow up to 50 cents on the dollar. That's what's given. So I think it's in for a penny, in for a pound, either everybody can do it or not. The second thing is that money is used to do something that generates taxes, we pay taxes on the interest we get on those loans. And so I think it's a much more complex question someone might understand just saying I borrow money and not pay taxes because taxes are paid by other participants, the underlying assets they buy have taxes, if there's dividends, that's taxed on a flow basis. Having been a lawyer a long time ago and steady taxation, it's much more complex than the average person thinks. SORKIN: Thank you, counselor. Appreciate it. Brian Moynihan, thank you very, very much. Updated on May 23, 2022, 9:57 am (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//mixi.media/data/js/95481.js"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkMay 23rd, 2022

Live updates: GOP plans abortion strategy after Roe v. Wade leak

The campaign arm of the Senate GOP told Republicans to be "the compassionate, consensus-builder on abortion policy." Pro-choice demonstrators hold signs in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2022.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images The GOP is advising members on abortion communications after the SCOTUS leak, Axios reported. It called Democrats "extreme" and said Republicans should be the "compassionate, consensus-builder." Politico also said it is adding security measures after publishing the leaked draft opinion on Roe v. Wade. The GOP told lawmakers to portray themselves as 'the compassionate, consensus-builder' on abortion policy after SCOTUS leak, Axios reportsSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesA leaked GOP memo obtained by Axios told Republican lawmakers to portray themselves as the "compassionate consensus-builder" on abortion policy after the leak.The memo by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which is the campaign arm of the Senate GOP, said: "Be the compassionate, consensus-builder on abortion policy ... While people have many different views on abortion policy, Americans are compassionate people who want to welcome every new baby into the world."It also Republicans should "expose the Democrats for the extreme views they hold," claiming that "Joe Biden and the Democrats have extreme and radical views on abortion that are outside of the mainstream of most Americans," Axios reported.Read Full Story Phone location data from people who visited abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood, is legally on sale for $160, Vice reportsThe outside of the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center is seen in St. Louis, Missouri.Saul Loeb/Getty ImagesVice found that location data from Planned Parenthood branches can be legally sold.Vice paid a broker $160 for a dataset that included a week's worth of phone location data for 600 Planned Parenthoods in the US, including some that provide abortions.Data from such brokers is aggregated, which means individuals are not singled out, but it is possible to de-anonymize the data and idenfify people from the datasets.Read Full StoryPolitico told its employees to watch out for strangers trying to enter their office after it published the leaked SCOTUS draft, The Daily Beast reportsProtests erupt after a leaked opinion favors abortion bans.Getty ImagesPolitico told employees to watch out for strangers trying to enter their office after they published the leaked draft opinion, The Daily Beast reported.Politico's Chief Talent Officer Traci Schweikert said new security measures would be put in place after the report.The Daily Beast did not report the specifics of any new measures, but reported that Schweikert told staff to be aware of potential threats."Be aware of anyone accessing our elevators with you and the possibility of 'tailgating' to your floor," Schweikert said.The email also urged employees to delete private information from their social media accounts, The Daily Beast reported.Read Full Story  Women on TikTok say hookup culture will be 'decimated' if Roe V. Wade is overturnedThe landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case provided the legal precedent that makes abortion legal in the US.TikTokSome women say they will deny casual sex if they do not have abortion rights after news broke that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark Roe V. Wade case. "In case you're a man who doesn't care about roe v wade just know that if abortion gets banned hookup culture will be absolutely decimated," TikTok user @moneymollusk wrote in a video, which has received more than 1.2 million views in a single day."What women would have mediocre sex with a drunk rando if he could potentially father their child," she continued, noting that the video is directed at "all the pro-life men who love Plan B."Read Full StoryReasoning behind leaked draft decision could lead to anti-feminist laws nationwide, says Rep. Jamie RaskinProtesters at a pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court on November 1, 2021.AP Photo/Jacquelyn MartinMaryland Rep. Jamie Raskin said this week that if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned based on Justice Samuel Alito's reasoning, it might be an invitation for other laws to be overturned. Raskin was discussing the bombshell leak of the Supreme Court's draft majority opinion on Roe v. Wade during an interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Monday.Read Full StoryOverturning Roe v. Wade is 'not what a majority of Americans want,' says Elizabeth WarrenSen. Elizabeth Warren.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesA video taken on Tuesday showed Sen. Elizabeth Warren fuming over a leaked Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito which appeared to show that the Supreme Court's conservative judges have lined up to overturn Roe v. Wade.The 1973 Supreme Court decision codified the right to an abortion into law, but the memo leaked by Politico on Monday showed that the court's five conservative judges all shared their opposition to the law in February.A furious Warren ripped into the lawmakers who approved the conservative judges while speaking with reporters on Tuesday, appearing shaken with anger as an aide helped escort her away from the courthouse.Read Full StoryAs Roe v. Wade faces being overturned, communities of color continue to fight for their rightsFor decades, women of color have been on the front line of the fight for abortion rights.Whitney Curtis/Getty ImagesAbortion advocates say that communities of color will bear the brunt of the overturning of the decades-long precedence of Roe v. Wade."We know this imminent ruling will have a dramatic impact on all people seeking to end a pregnancy and its consequences will reverberate nationwide," Lupe M. Rodríguez, the executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, wrote in a statement to Insider.Read Full StorySupreme Court's leaked decision gives Democrats a fresh shot at the culture warsBoth pro- and anti-abortion demonstrators gathered in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 3.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesRepublicans planned to ride to electoral victory this fall on a wave of parental fears and dissatisfaction with schools, teachers' unions, and COVID restrictions.The Supreme Court was poised over the summer to weigh in on one of the most polarizing issues of all, overturning abortion rights. But now that an authentic draft of the conservative majority's opinion has been leaked ahead of schedule, it has accelerated concerns, and a decision to gut Roe v. Wade could supersede all other culture wars when Americans go to the polls in November.Democrats are counting on it.Read Full StorySchumer blasts McConnell for not discussing Supreme Court draft opinionSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Alex Wong/Getty Images; Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday ripped into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the top Republican avoiding talking about his longtime push to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that granted women the constitutional right to an abortion nearly 50 years ago.McConnell earlier on Tuesday criticized the release of a draft opinion from the Supreme Court — an unprecedented leak related to a major abortion rights case that's still pending. The top Republican focused his outrage on the nature of the leak, and avoided speaking on the substance of the draft opinion, which would overturn Roe."It is utterly amazing that Mitch McConnell did not want to say he supports repealing Roe v. Wade," Schumer said during a press conference. "All he did was talk about the leaks."Read Full StoryRepublican senators won't say if they support rape and incest exceptions to abortion bansRepublican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Joni Ernst of IowaJim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AFP via Getty Images; Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty; Anna Moneymaker/GettyEvery Republican president since Ronald Reagan has stood behind anti-abortion views with exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, and protecting the life of the pregnant person.But some Senate Republicans refused to tell Insider whether they support such exceptions in the wake of the publication of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling protecting abortion rights.Read Full StoryConservative media talking heads play defense on overturning Roe v. WadeSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesThe conservative legal movement appears to be on the cusp of achieving a nearly 50-year dream of overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting abortion.But so far, conservative media appearances show the party and its most loyal pundits holding off on taking a victory lap.Read Full StoryDemocrats want to make Roe v. Wade the law of the landSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer discusses efforts to codify Roe v. Wade into law this past February.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesDemocrats have promised to vote on a bill that would protect abortion rights after a leaked draft showed the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. "Every American is going to see which side every senator stands on," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday on the steps of the US Capitol, adding that a vote would happen "soon" on the Women's Health Protection Act. Read Full StoryJustice Samuel Alito quoted Ruth Bader Ginsburg in leaked draft opinionUS Supreme Court Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito, Jr. sit next to each other for a group portrait on November 30, 2018.Jim Young/ReutersAssociate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito cited the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in his leaked draft opinion that would reverse landmark abortion rights. Ginsburg was a famously strong defender of women's rights during her 27-year tenure on the court before her death in 2020. "Roe...halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believed, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue," Alito quoted Ginsburg on the third page of his 98-page opinion.Read Full StoryScrapping of Roe v. Wade would hurt women's personal and financial securityProtesters, demonstrators, and activists gather in front of the US Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, a case about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, on December 01, 2021.Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesOver the last few years, women and trans Americans have seen their economic, physical, and personal security imperiled, and policy hasn't stepped up to address those challenges.A Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade would be yet another big setback, Insider's Juliana Kaplan and Joseph Zeballos-Roig write.Read Full StoryThe draft leak was Chief Justice John Roberts' worst 'nightmare'Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into the leak of a draft opinion.Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty ImagesChief Justice John Roberts has a pattern of warning Supreme Court clerks and staff to maintain confidentiality in court dealings. Roberts would highlight to the clerks that leaking information could mean blows to their careers, clerks told Insider.Legal experts called the breach — which is almost unprecedented — "highly disturbing." Roberts has instructed the court marshal to start an investigation into the leak. He called it a "betrayal of the confidences of the court."Read Full StoryOklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signs Texas-style bill that bans abortions around the six-week pregnancy mark—Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) May 3, 2022Stitt signed SB 1503 — a bill that mirrors the highly restrictive Texas abortion ban — on Tuesday saying he wants Oklahoma "to be the most pro-life state in the country."The "Oklahoma Heartbeat Act" would make it illegal for any pregnant individual to obtain an abortion passed the point when a heartbeat can be detected in the fetus. This typically occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy — though most people are unaware that they are pregnant at this point. The bill leaves out exceptions including rape or incest and only allows the procedure if the impregnated person's life is at risk.It also enables private citizens to sue others who induce or provide an abortion for up to $10,000, just like the Texas law. The bill immediately goes into effect since Stitt signed.Oklahoma lawmakers passed another abortion law in April forbidding medical professionals from performing the procedure except in medical emergencies — punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. This bill would go into effect in the summer unless courts stop it.Some companies are covering travel costs for employees seeking abortion in different statesSarah Goggans (C) holds her daughter Lilith Centola in front of the US Supreme Court as demonstrators gather in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2022.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesSome US companies are taking steps in response to increasing restrictions on abortion access.  Amazon, Apple, and Citi, for example, are covering travel costs for employees seeking abortion in different states.At least half of US states are "certain or likely" to ban abortion if the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is struck down, according to analysis by the Guttmacher Institute.Read Full StoryAOC calls Sen. Kyrsten Sinema 'an obstructionist' and rips on the Arizona lawmakerSen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images; J. Scott Applewhite, File/Associated PressRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Sen. Kyrsten Sinema "an obstructionist" and slammed the Arizona lawmaker for refusing to support changes to the Senate filibuster to codify abortion protections."We could protect Roe tomorrow, but Sinema refuses to act on the filibuster. Until that changes she can take a seat talking about 'women's access to health care,'" Ocasio-Cortez said, calling for Sinema to be primaried. Read Full StoryRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said her "confidence" in SCOTUS has been rockedRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said her "confidence" in the Supreme Court has been rocked after the leaked draft opinion suggesting Roe v. Wade would be overturned. "Roe is still the law of the land. We don't know the direction that this decision may ultimately take, but if it goes in the direction that this leaked copy has indicated I will just tell you that it rocks my confidence in the court right now," she told reporters. Murkowski, who supports abortion rights, voted to approve Conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.Read Full StoryKamala Harris says the 'rights of all Americans are at risk' after leaked draft opinionVice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff disembark from Air Force 2 at San Francisco International Airport on April 21, 2022 in California.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesVice President Kamala Harris said in a statement that "the rights of all Americans are at risk" as the Supreme Court seems set to overturn Roe v. Wade. "If the right to privacy is weakened, every person could face a future in which the government can potentially interfere in the personal decisions you make about your life," Harris said.She added: "Republican legislators in states across the country are weaponizing the use of the law against women."Read Full StorySen. Elizabeth Warren rips Republicans for 'plotting' to get a conservative Supreme CourtU.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to pro-choice demonstrators outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on May 03, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesSen. Elizabeth Warren slammed Republicans for "plotting" to get a conservative Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade. "The Republicans have been working toward this day for decades," Warren told reporters Tuesday. "They have been out there plotting, carefully cultivating these Supreme Court justices so they could have a majority on the bench who would accomplish something that the majority of Americans do not want."She said she's "angry and upset and determined," after the leaked draft opinion appearing to signal the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling will be overturned. Read Full StorySen. Kyrsten Sinema stands by her support of the Senate filibusterSen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Feb. 1, 2022 in Washington.Al Drago/Bloomberg via AP, FileSen. Kyrsten Sinema is standing by her support of the Senate filibuster, busting Democrats' hopes of codifying Roe v. Wade into law.  "Protections in the Senate safeguarding against the erosion of women's access to health care have been used half-a-dozen times in the past ten years, and are more important now than ever," she said in a Tuesday statement.The filibuster requires most legislation to get a three-fifths majority to head to debate, meaning Democrats can't pass many policy items in an evenly divided Senate.  Read Full StoryRep. Cori Bush said she's 'broken up' by the Roe v. Wade draft opinionDemocratic Rep. Cori Bush — who previously revealed she got an abortion after being raped as a teen — said she was "broken up" after the leaked draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court would overturn the constitutional right to abortion."I'm pretty broken up," the 45-year-old Missouri congresswoman told The New York Times in an interview on Tuesday.She added: "Whether you have an abortion, or whether you have the child, no one is on that table with you. No one is on that bed with you."Read Full StorySupreme Court confirms authenticity of leaked draft opinion gutting abortion rightsU.S. Supreme Court Police officers set up barricades on the sidewalk as pro-choice and anti-abortion activists demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on May 03, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesThe Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft opinion that would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing abortion rights."Although the document described in yesterday's reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case," the court said in a statement.Chief Justice John Roberts announced the court will investigate to find out who leaked the document.Read Full StorySusan Collins slams Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh after leaked draft opinionSusan CollinsGreg Nash-Pool/Getty ImagesRepublican Sen. Susan Collins slammed conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of the leaked draft opinion that would overturn the right to an abortion."If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office," Collins said in a statement.Collins — who supports abortion rights — has previously defended her decision to vote for Gorsuch and Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmations. Read Full StoryMajority Leader Schumer says the Senate will vote on an abortion rights billSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised to hold a vote that would codify federal abortion rights into law."A vote on this legislation is not an abstract exercise. This is as urgent and real as it gets," Schumer said during a speech on the Senate floor. "We will vote to protect a woman's right to choose and every American is going to see on which side every American stands."Read Full StoryBiden says it's up to 'voters to elect pro-choice officials' after leaked SCOTUS draft opinionBiden at former Vice President Walter Mondale’s memorial service in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 1, 2022.Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty ImagesPresident Joe Biden urged voters to elect pro-choice lawmakers in the wake of a leaked draft opinion seemingly suggesting that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Biden in a Tuesday statement said at a federal level, the country needs "more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House" so he can pass legislation to codify Roe v. Wade. "If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation's elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman's right to choose," the president added. "And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November." Read Full StoryMcConnell lashes out at Democrats over reactions to Roe v. Wade leakSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) departs the US Capitol on April 27, 2022.STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty ImagesSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed Democrats over their reactions to the leaked draft opinion showing the Supreme Court is set to undo abortion rights. "By every indication, this was yet another escalation in the radical left's ongoing campaign to bully and intimidate federal judges and substitute mob rule for the rule of law," McConnell said in a statement.He also called the leak "an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court." Read Full StoryCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes to build a statewide constitutional 'firewall' around abortion rightsCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday proposed building a statewide constitutional "firewall" around abortion rights."California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution," Newsom said in a joint statement with California's State Senate President Toni Atkins and State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.The statement said California lawmakers will propose a constitutional amendment to "enshrine the right to choose."Read Full StoryDemocrats plan to make abortion rights a huge midterm issueAbortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Washington, as the court hears arguments in a case from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Democrats plan to make abortion a main talking point ahead of the fall midterm elections if the Supreme Court overturns existing protections for women's reproductive rights.If the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is overturned, pro-choice groups say outrage could help inspire people to vote. "The reality is abortion is absolutely going to be on the ballot in 2022, no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Kristin Ford, vice president of communications at NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Insider in March.Read Full StoryDemocrats are worried that same-sex marriage and civil rights could be targeted next after SCOTUS leakDemocratic lawmakers are concerned that same-sex marriage and civil rights could be undone next in the wake of a leaked draft opinion showing the Supreme Court is set to overturn abortion rights.The Supreme Court "isn't just coming for abortion - they're coming for the right to privacy Roe rests on, which includes gay marriage + civil rights," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday.Legal scholar Laurence Tribe wrote on Twitter that next steps may include a "nationwide abortion ban, followed by a push to roll back rights to contraception, same-sex marriage, sexual privacy, and the full array of textually unenumerated rights long taken for granted." Read Full StorySCOTUS leaked draft opinion is unprecedented, but details about Court deliberations have been made public beforeCaroline McDonald, left, a student at Georgetown University, Lauren Morrissey, with Catholics for Choice, and Pamela Huber, of Washington, join a pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, as arguments are set to begin about abortion by the court, on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP Photo/Jacquelyn MartinThe leaked draft opinion seemingly showing that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade is certainly unprecedented. An entire draft opinion has never been leaked like this before. But details about justices' deliberations have been made public before — for example a 1972 memo about Roe that was leaked to the Washington Post before it became public. Read Full StoryBiden has been reluctant to say the word 'abortion' throughout his termPresident Joe Biden has been reluctant to publicly say the word "abortion" since he took office in January 2021.According to CNN, he has never said the word "abortion" out loud and used it a few times in some written statements. During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to codify the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.Read Full StoryDemocrats want to 'codify Roe,' but it's unlikely to succeedSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer discusses efforts to codify Roe v. Wade into law this past February.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesIn the wake of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion, Democrats have quickly organized to codify Roe v. Wade and make it a law.One thing stopping Democrats' efforts, however, is the Senate filibuster. Democrats are currently focusing on the Women's Health Protection Act as a way to protect women's' federal right to abortion. Read Full StoryA constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights is nearly impossible to get throughThe First Printing of the Final Text of the United States Constitution is on display during a press preview at Sotheby's on September 17, 2021 in New York City.Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty ImagesAmending the Constitution is extremely difficult and rare. An amendment protecting abortion rights is nearly impossible.Abortion rights amendments have previously been proposed by both supporters and opponents. In the 233-year-long lifespan of the Constitution, it has only been amended 27 times — most recently in 1992 — and would require massive support in Congress and among states.  Read Full StoryLegal experts are shocked the drafted decision leakedSeated from left: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left: Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty ImagesLegal experts have expressed shock at the fact that a draft opinion from the Supreme Court was leaked to Politico. "The fact that it leaked is, to me, the most surprising thing," Harvard Law School professor I. Glenn Cohen told Insider.Mark Kende, a law professor at Drake University, told Insider that it's "highly disturbing that the opinion was improperly leaked in an unprecedented way, presumably by someone at the Court."Read Full StoryTop Democrats slam SCOTUS justices for 'one of the worst' decisions in historySenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi.AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed the potential Supreme Court ruling as  "one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history."Their remarks came in response to a leaked draft opinion published by Politico that appears to show the Supreme Court is set to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case. "If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years – not just on women but on all Americans," Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. Read Full StoryProtesters in support of Roe v. Wade gathered outside Supreme CourtPro-choice and anti-abortion activist rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. In an initial draft majority opinion obtained by Politico, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito allegedly wrote that the cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern v. Casey should be overruled, which would end federal protection of abortion rights across the country.Kevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesHundreds of protestors gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, late on Monday night after Politico published a leaked draft opinion suggesting that Roe v. Wade was poised to be overturned. "I got down here early, right, cause I got home from a long day kicked off shoes my shoes, opened Twitter, saw that Roe v. Wade was trending to be overturned, put my shoes back on, and came right back from east of the river," Rev. Wendy Hamilton, a Democratic congressional candidate from DC, told Insider. Read Full StoryLeaked draft opinion shows SCOTUS set to overturn Roe v. WadeThe U.S. Supreme Court building is seen at sunset in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesA leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico appears to show that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that granted women the constitutional right to an abortion.Politico late Monday published the 98-page initial draft majority opinion, purportedly authored by Justice Samuel Alito who said Roe was "egregiously wrong from the start.""We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," the draft opinion says, labeled as the "Opinion of the Court," according to the report.The decision — if finalized — would mark a momentous shift in constitutional rights. Over a dozen GOP states have laws that would immediately restrict abortion access if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Read Full StoryRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 4th, 2022

Live updates: Overturning Roe v Wade is "not what a majority of Americans want," says Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Over a dozen GOP-led states have laws that would immediately restrict abortion access if the Supreme Court throws out Roe v. Wade. Pro-choice demonstrators hold signs in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2022.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images A video shows Sen. Elizabeth Warren furious about the leaked memo regarding Roe v. Wade. "The Republicans have been working toward this day for decades," Warren said. If finalized, the ruling would throw out a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion. Reasoning behind leaked draft decision could lead to anti-feminist laws nationwide, says Rep. Jamie RaskinProtesters at a pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court on November 1, 2021.AP Photo/Jacquelyn MartinMaryland Rep. Jamie Raskin said this week that if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned based on Justice Samuel Alito's reasoning, it might be an invitation for other laws to be overturned. Raskin was discussing the bombshell leak of the Supreme Court's draft majority opinion on Roe v. Wade during an interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Monday.Read Full StoryOverturning Roe v. Wade is 'not what a majority of Americans want,' says Elizabeth WarrenSen. Elizabeth Warren.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesA video taken on Tuesday showed Sen. Elizabeth Warren fuming over a leaked Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito which appeared to show that the Supreme Court's conservative judges have lined up to overturn Roe v. Wade.The 1973 Supreme Court decision codified the right to an abortion into law, but the memo leaked by Politico on Monday showed that the court's five conservative judges all shared their opposition to the law in February.A furious Warren ripped into the lawmakers who approved the conservative judges while speaking with reporters on Tuesday, appearing shaken with anger as an aide helped escort her away from the courthouse.Read Full StoryAs Roe v. Wade faces being overturned, communities of color continue to fight for their rightsFor decades, women of color have been on the front line of the fight for abortion rights.Whitney Curtis/Getty ImagesAbortion advocates say that communities of color will bear the brunt of the overturning of the decades-long precedence of Roe v. Wade."We know this imminent ruling will have a dramatic impact on all people seeking to end a pregnancy and its consequences will reverberate nationwide," Lupe M. Rodríguez, the executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, wrote in a statement to Insider.Read Full StorySupreme Court's leaked decision gives Democrats a fresh shot at the culture warsBoth pro- and anti-abortion demonstrators gathered in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 3.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesRepublicans planned to ride to electoral victory this fall on a wave of parental fears and dissatisfaction with schools, teachers' unions, and COVID restrictions.The Supreme Court was poised over the summer to weigh in on one of the most polarizing issues of all, overturning abortion rights. But now that an authentic draft of the conservative majority's opinion has been leaked ahead of schedule, it has accelerated concerns, and a decision to gut Roe v. Wade could supersede all other culture wars when Americans go to the polls in November.Democrats are counting on it.Read Full StorySchumer blasts McConnell for not discussing Supreme Court draft opinionSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Alex Wong/Getty Images; Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday ripped into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the top Republican avoiding talking about his longtime push to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that granted women the constitutional right to an abortion nearly 50 years ago.McConnell earlier on Tuesday criticized the release of a draft opinion from the Supreme Court — an unprecedented leak related to a major abortion rights case that's still pending. The top Republican focused his outrage on the nature of the leak, and avoided speaking on the substance of the draft opinion, which would overturn Roe."It is utterly amazing that Mitch McConnell did not want to say he supports repealing Roe v. Wade," Schumer said during a press conference. "All he did was talk about the leaks."Read Full StoryRepublican senators won't say if they support rape and incest exceptions to abortion bansRepublican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Joni Ernst of IowaJim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AFP via Getty Images; Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty; Anna Moneymaker/GettyEvery Republican president since Ronald Reagan has stood behind anti-abortion views with exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, and protecting the life of the pregnant person.But some Senate Republicans refused to tell Insider whether they support such exceptions in the wake of the publication of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling protecting abortion rights.Read Full StoryConservative media talking heads play defense on overturning Roe v. WadeSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesThe conservative legal movement appears to be on the cusp of achieving a nearly 50-year dream of overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting abortion.But so far, conservative media appearances show the party and its most loyal pundits holding off on taking a victory lap.Read Full StoryDemocrats want to make Roe v. Wade the law of the landSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer discusses efforts to codify Roe v. Wade into law this past February.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesDemocrats have promised to vote on a bill that would protect abortion rights after a leaked draft showed the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. "Every American is going to see which side every senator stands on," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday on the steps of the US Capitol, adding that a vote would happen "soon" on the Women's Health Protection Act. Read Full StoryJustice Samuel Alito quoted Ruth Bader Ginsburg in leaked draft opinionUS Supreme Court Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito, Jr. sit next to each other for a group portrait on November 30, 2018.Jim Young/ReutersAssociate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito cited the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in his leaked draft opinion that would reverse landmark abortion rights. Ginsburg was a famously strong defender of women's rights during her 27-year tenure on the court before her death in 2020. "Roe...halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believed, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue," Alito quoted Ginsburg on the third page of his 98-page opinion.Read Full StoryScrapping of Roe v. Wade would hurt women's personal and financial securityProtesters, demonstrators, and activists gather in front of the US Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, a case about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, on December 01, 2021.Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesOver the last few years, women and trans Americans have seen their economic, physical, and personal security imperiled, and policy hasn't stepped up to address those challenges.A Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade would be yet another big setback, Insider's Juliana Kaplan and Joseph Zeballos-Roig write.Read Full StoryThe draft leak was Chief Justice John Roberts' worst 'nightmare'Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into the leak of a draft opinion.Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty ImagesChief Justice John Roberts has a pattern of warning Supreme Court clerks and staff to maintain confidentiality in court dealings. Roberts would highlight to the clerks that leaking information could mean blows to their careers, clerks told Insider.Legal experts called the breach — which is almost unprecedented — "highly disturbing." Roberts has instructed the court marshal to start an investigation into the leak. He called it a "betrayal of the confidences of the court."Read Full StoryOklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signs Texas-style bill that bans abortions around the six-week pregnancy mark—Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) May 3, 2022Stitt signed SB 1503 — a bill that mirrors the highly restrictive Texas abortion ban — on Tuesday saying he wants Oklahoma "to be the most pro-life state in the country."The "Oklahoma Heartbeat Act" would make it illegal for any pregnant individual to obtain an abortion passed the point when a heartbeat can be detected in the fetus. This typically occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy — though most people are unaware that they are pregnant at this point. The bill leaves out exceptions including rape or incest and only allows the procedure if the impregnated person's life is at risk.It also enables private citizens to sue others who induce or provide an abortion for up to $10,000, just like the Texas law. The bill immediately goes into effect since Stitt signed.Oklahoma lawmakers passed another abortion law in April forbidding medical professionals from performing the procedure except in medical emergencies — punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. This bill would go into effect in the summer unless courts stop it.Some companies are covering travel costs for employees seeking abortion in different statesSarah Goggans (C) holds her daughter Lilith Centola in front of the US Supreme Court as demonstrators gather in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2022.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesSome US companies are taking steps in response to increasing restrictions on abortion access.  Amazon, Apple, and Citi, for example, are covering travel costs for employees seeking abortion in different states.At least half of US states are "certain or likely" to ban abortion if the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is struck down, according to analysis by the Guttmacher Institute.Read Full StoryAOC calls Sen. Kyrsten Sinema 'an obstructionist' and rips on the Arizona lawmakerSen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images; J. Scott Applewhite, File/Associated PressRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Sen. Kyrsten Sinema "an obstructionist" and slammed the Arizona lawmaker for refusing to support changes to the Senate filibuster to codify abortion protections."We could protect Roe tomorrow, but Sinema refuses to act on the filibuster. Until that changes she can take a seat talking about 'women's access to health care,'" Ocasio-Cortez said, calling for Sinema to be primaried. Read Full StoryRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said her "confidence" in SCOTUS has been rockedRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said her "confidence" in the Supreme Court has been rocked after the leaked draft opinion suggesting Roe v. Wade would be overturned. "Roe is still the law of the land. We don't know the direction that this decision may ultimately take, but if it goes in the direction that this leaked copy has indicated I will just tell you that it rocks my confidence in the court right now," she told reporters. Murkowski, who supports abortion rights, voted to approve Conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.Read Full StoryKamala Harris says the 'rights of all Americans are at risk' after leaked draft opinionVice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff disembark from Air Force 2 at San Francisco International Airport on April 21, 2022 in California.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesVice President Kamala Harris said in a statement that "the rights of all Americans are at risk" as the Supreme Court seems set to overturn Roe v. Wade. "If the right to privacy is weakened, every person could face a future in which the government can potentially interfere in the personal decisions you make about your life," Harris said.She added: "Republican legislators in states across the country are weaponizing the use of the law against women."Read Full StorySen. Elizabeth Warren rips Republicans for 'plotting' to get a conservative Supreme CourtU.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to pro-choice demonstrators outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on May 03, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesSen. Elizabeth Warren slammed Republicans for "plotting" to get a conservative Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade. "The Republicans have been working toward this day for decades," Warren told reporters Tuesday. "They have been out there plotting, carefully cultivating these Supreme Court justices so they could have a majority on the bench who would accomplish something that the majority of Americans do not want."She said she's "angry and upset and determined," after the leaked draft opinion appearing to signal the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling will be overturned. Read Full StorySen. Kyrsten Sinema stands by her support of the Senate filibusterSen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Feb. 1, 2022 in Washington.Al Drago/Bloomberg via AP, FileSen. Kyrsten Sinema is standing by her support of the Senate filibuster, busting Democrats' hopes of codifying Roe v. Wade into law.  "Protections in the Senate safeguarding against the erosion of women's access to health care have been used half-a-dozen times in the past ten years, and are more important now than ever," she said in a Tuesday statement.The filibuster requires most legislation to get a three-fifths majority to head to debate, meaning Democrats can't pass many policy items in an evenly divided Senate.  Read Full StoryRep. Cori Bush said she's 'broken up' by the Roe v. Wade draft opinionDemocratic Rep. Cori Bush — who previously revealed she got an abortion after being raped as a teen — said she was "broken up" after the leaked draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court would overturn the constitutional right to abortion."I'm pretty broken up," the 45-year-old Missouri congresswoman told The New York Times in an interview on Tuesday.She added: "Whether you have an abortion, or whether you have the child, no one is on that table with you. No one is on that bed with you."Read Full StorySupreme Court confirms authenticity of leaked draft opinion gutting abortion rightsU.S. Supreme Court Police officers set up barricades on the sidewalk as pro-choice and anti-abortion activists demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on May 03, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesThe Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft opinion that would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing abortion rights."Although the document described in yesterday's reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case," the court said in a statement.Chief Justice John Roberts announced the court will investigate to find out who leaked the document.Read Full StorySusan Collins slams Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh after leaked draft opinionSusan CollinsGreg Nash-Pool/Getty ImagesRepublican Sen. Susan Collins slammed conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of the leaked draft opinion that would overturn the right to an abortion."If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office," Collins said in a statement.Collins — who supports abortion rights — has previously defended her decision to vote for Gorsuch and Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmations. Read Full StoryMajority Leader Schumer says the Senate will vote on an abortion rights billSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised to hold a vote that would codify federal abortion rights into law."A vote on this legislation is not an abstract exercise. This is as urgent and real as it gets," Schumer said during a speech on the Senate floor. "We will vote to protect a woman's right to choose and every American is going to see on which side every American stands."Read Full StoryBiden says it's up to 'voters to elect pro-choice officials' after leaked SCOTUS draft opinionBiden at former Vice President Walter Mondale’s memorial service in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 1, 2022.Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty ImagesPresident Joe Biden urged voters to elect pro-choice lawmakers in the wake of a leaked draft opinion seemingly suggesting that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Biden in a Tuesday statement said at a federal level, the country needs "more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House" so he can pass legislation to codify Roe v. Wade. "If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation's elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman's right to choose," the president added. "And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November." Read Full StoryMcConnell lashes out at Democrats over reactions to Roe v. Wade leakSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) departs the US Capitol on April 27, 2022.STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty ImagesSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed Democrats over their reactions to the leaked draft opinion showing the Supreme Court is set to undo abortion rights. "By every indication, this was yet another escalation in the radical left's ongoing campaign to bully and intimidate federal judges and substitute mob rule for the rule of law," McConnell said in a statement.He also called the leak "an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court." Read Full StoryCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes to build a statewide constitutional 'firewall' around abortion rightsCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday proposed building a statewide constitutional "firewall" around abortion rights."California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution," Newsom said in a joint statement with California's State Senate President Toni Atkins and State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.The statement said California lawmakers will propose a constitutional amendment to "enshrine the right to choose."Read Full StoryDemocrats plan to make abortion rights a huge midterm issueAbortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Washington, as the court hears arguments in a case from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Democrats plan to make abortion a main talking point ahead of the fall midterm elections if the Supreme Court overturns existing protections for women's reproductive rights.If the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is overturned, pro-choice groups say outrage could help inspire people to vote. "The reality is abortion is absolutely going to be on the ballot in 2022, no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Kristin Ford, vice president of communications at NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Insider in March.Read Full StoryDemocrats are worried that same-sex marriage and civil rights could be targeted next after SCOTUS leakDemocratic lawmakers are concerned that same-sex marriage and civil rights could be undone next in the wake of a leaked draft opinion showing the Supreme Court is set to overturn abortion rights.The Supreme Court "isn't just coming for abortion - they're coming for the right to privacy Roe rests on, which includes gay marriage + civil rights," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday.Legal scholar Laurence Tribe wrote on Twitter that next steps may include a "nationwide abortion ban, followed by a push to roll back rights to contraception, same-sex marriage, sexual privacy, and the full array of textually unenumerated rights long taken for granted." Read Full StorySCOTUS leaked draft opinion is unprecedented, but details about Court deliberations have been made public beforeCaroline McDonald, left, a student at Georgetown University, Lauren Morrissey, with Catholics for Choice, and Pamela Huber, of Washington, join a pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, as arguments are set to begin about abortion by the court, on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP Photo/Jacquelyn MartinThe leaked draft opinion seemingly showing that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade is certainly unprecedented. An entire draft opinion has never been leaked like this before. But details about justices' deliberations have been made public before — for example a 1972 memo about Roe that was leaked to the Washington Post before it became public. Read Full StoryBiden has been reluctant to say the word 'abortion' throughout his termPresident Joe Biden has been reluctant to publicly say the word "abortion" since he took office in January 2021.According to CNN, he has never said the word "abortion" out loud and used it a few times in some written statements. During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to codify the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.Read Full StoryDemocrats want to 'codify Roe,' but it's unlikely to succeedSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer discusses efforts to codify Roe v. Wade into law this past February.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesIn the wake of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion, Democrats have quickly organized to codify Roe v. Wade and make it a law.One thing stopping Democrats' efforts, however, is the Senate filibuster. Democrats are currently focusing on the Women's Health Protection Act as a way to protect women's' federal right to abortion. Read Full StoryA constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights is nearly impossible to get throughThe First Printing of the Final Text of the United States Constitution is on display during a press preview at Sotheby's on September 17, 2021 in New York City.Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty ImagesAmending the Constitution is extremely difficult and rare. An amendment protecting abortion rights is nearly impossible.Abortion rights amendments have previously been proposed by both supporters and opponents. In the 233-year-long lifespan of the Constitution, it has only been amended 27 times — most recently in 1992 — and would require massive support in Congress and among states.  Read Full StoryLegal experts are shocked the drafted decision leakedSeated from left: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left: Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty ImagesLegal experts have expressed shock at the fact that a draft opinion from the Supreme Court was leaked to Politico. "The fact that it leaked is, to me, the most surprising thing," Harvard Law School professor I. Glenn Cohen told Insider.Mark Kende, a law professor at Drake University, told Insider that it's "highly disturbing that the opinion was improperly leaked in an unprecedented way, presumably by someone at the Court."Read Full StoryTop Democrats slam SCOTUS justices for 'one of the worst' decisions in historySenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi.AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed the potential Supreme Court ruling as  "one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history."Their remarks came in response to a leaked draft opinion published by Politico that appears to show the Supreme Court is set to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case. "If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years – not just on women but on all Americans," Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. Read Full StoryProtesters in support of Roe v. Wade gathered outside Supreme CourtPro-choice and anti-abortion activist rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. In an initial draft majority opinion obtained by Politico, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito allegedly wrote that the cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern v. Casey should be overruled, which would end federal protection of abortion rights across the country.Kevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesHundreds of protestors gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, late on Monday night after Politico published a leaked draft opinion suggesting that Roe v. Wade was poised to be overturned. "I got down here early, right, cause I got home from a long day kicked off shoes my shoes, opened Twitter, saw that Roe v. Wade was trending to be overturned, put my shoes back on, and came right back from east of the river," Rev. Wendy Hamilton, a Democratic congressional candidate from DC, told Insider. Read Full StoryLeaked draft opinion shows SCOTUS set to overturn Roe v. WadeThe U.S. Supreme Court building is seen at sunset in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesA leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico appears to show that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that granted women the constitutional right to an abortion.Politico late Monday published the 98-page initial draft majority opinion, purportedly authored by Justice Samuel Alito who said Roe was "egregiously wrong from the start.""We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," the draft opinion says, labeled as the "Opinion of the Court," according to the report.The decision — if finalized — would mark a momentous shift in constitutional rights. Over a dozen GOP states have laws that would immediately restrict abortion access if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Read Full StoryRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 4th, 2022

Live updates: Chief Justice John Roberts has warned Supreme Court clerks, staff to maintain confidentiality in court dealings

Over a dozen GOP-led states have laws that would immediately restrict abortion access if the Supreme Court throws out Roe v. Wade. Pro-choice demonstrators hold signs in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2022.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images The Supreme Court confirmed a leaked draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade is authentic. The ruling — which hasn't been finalized — would throw out a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion. President Joe Biden urged voters to elect pro-choice lawmakers during the upcoming midterms.  The draft leak was Chief Justice John Roberts' worst 'nightmare'Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into the leak of a draft opinion.Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty ImagesChief Justice John Roberts has a pattern of warning Supreme Court clerks and staff to maintain confidentiality in court dealings. Roberts would highlight to the clerks that leaking information could mean blows to their careers, clerks told Insider.Legal experts called the breach — which is almost unprecedented — "highly disturbing." Roberts has instructed the court marshal to start an investigation into the leak. He called it a "betrayal of the confidences of the court."Read Full StoryOklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signs Texas-style bill that bans abortions around the six-week pregnancy mark—Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) May 3, 2022Stitt signed SB 1503 — a bill that mirrors the highly restrictive Texas abortion ban — on Tuesday saying he wants Oklahoma "to be the most pro-life state in the country."The "Oklahoma Heartbeat Act" would make it illegal for any pregnant individual to obtain an abortion passed the point when a heartbeat can be detected in the fetus. This typically occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy — though most people are unaware that they are pregnant at this point. The bill leaves out exceptions including rape or incest and only allows the procedure if the impregnated person's life is at risk.It also enables private citizens to sue others who induce or provide an abortion for up to $10,000, just like the Texas law. The bill immediately goes into effect since Stitt signed.Oklahoma lawmakers passed another abortion law in April forbidding medical professionals from performing the procedure except in medical emergencies — punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. This bill would go into effect in the summer unless courts stop it.Some companies are covering travel costs for employees seeking abortion in different statesSarah Goggans (C) holds her daughter Lilith Centola in front of the US Supreme Court as demonstrators gather in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2022.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesSome US companies are taking steps in response to increasing restrictions on abortion access.  Amazon, Apple, and Citi, for example, are covering travel costs for employees seeking abortion in different states.At least half of US states are "certain or likely" to ban abortion if the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is struck down, according to analysis by the Guttmacher Institute.Read Full StoryAOC calls Sen. Kyrsten Sinema 'an obstructionist' and rips on the Arizona lawmakerSen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images; J. Scott Applewhite, File/Associated PressRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Sen. Kyrsten Sinema "an obstructionist" and slammed the Arizona lawmaker for refusing to support changes to the Senate filibuster to codify abortion protections."We could protect Roe tomorrow, but Sinema refuses to act on the filibuster. Until that changes she can take a seat talking about 'women's access to health care,'" Ocasio-Cortez said, calling for Sinema to be primaried. Read Full StoryRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said her "confidence" in SCOTUS has been rockedRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said her "confidence" in the Supreme Court has been rocked after the leaked draft opinion suggesting Roe v. Wade would be overturned. "Roe is still the law of the land. We don't know the direction that this decision may ultimately take, but if it goes in the direction that this leaked copy has indicated I will just tell you that it rocks my confidence in the court right now," she told reporters. Murkowski, who supports abortion rights, voted to approve Conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.Read Full StoryKamala Harris says the 'rights of all Americans are at risk' after leaked draft opinionVice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff disembark from Air Force 2 at San Francisco International Airport on April 21, 2022 in California.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesVice President Kamala Harris said in a statement that "the rights of all Americans are at risk" as the Supreme Court seems set to overturn Roe v. Wade. "If the right to privacy is weakened, every person could face a future in which the government can potentially interfere in the personal decisions you make about your life," Harris said.She added: "Republican legislators in states across the country are weaponizing the use of the law against women."Read Full StorySen. Elizabeth Warren rips Republicans for 'plotting' to get a conservative Supreme CourtU.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to pro-choice demonstrators outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on May 03, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesSen. Elizabeth Warren slammed Republicans for "plotting" to get a conservative Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade. "The Republicans have been working toward this day for decades," Warren told reporters Tuesday. "They have been out there plotting, carefully cultivating these Supreme Court justices so they could have a majority on the bench who would accomplish something that the majority of Americans do not want."She said she's "angry and upset and determined," after the leaked draft opinion appearing to signal the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling will be overturned. Read Full StorySen. Kyrsten Sinema stands by her support of the Senate filibusterSen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Feb. 1, 2022 in Washington.Al Drago/Bloomberg via AP, FileSen. Kyrsten Sinema is standing by her support of the Senate filibuster, busting Democrats' hopes of codifying Roe v. Wade into law.  "Protections in the Senate safeguarding against the erosion of women's access to health care have been used half-a-dozen times in the past ten years, and are more important now than ever," she said in a Tuesday statement.The filibuster requires most legislation to get a three-fifths majority to head to debate, meaning Democrats can't pass many policy items in an evenly divided Senate.  Read Full StoryRep. Cori Bush said she's 'broken up' by the Roe v. Wade draft opinionDemocratic Rep. Cori Bush — who previously revealed she got an abortion after being raped as a teen — said she was "broken up" after the leaked draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court would overturn the constitutional right to abortion."I'm pretty broken up," the 45-year-old Missouri congresswoman told The New York Times in an interview on Tuesday.She added: "Whether you have an abortion, or whether you have the child, no one is on that table with you. No one is on that bed with you."Read Full StorySupreme Court confirms authenticity of leaked draft opinion gutting abortion rightsU.S. Supreme Court Police officers set up barricades on the sidewalk as pro-choice and anti-abortion activists demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on May 03, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesThe Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft opinion that would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing abortion rights."Although the document described in yesterday's reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case," the court said in a statement.Chief Justice John Roberts announced the court will investigate to find out who leaked the document.Read Full StorySusan Collins slams Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh after leaked draft opinionSusan CollinsGreg Nash-Pool/Getty ImagesRepublican Sen. Susan Collins slammed conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of the leaked draft opinion that would overturn the right to an abortion."If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office," Collins said in a statement.Collins — who supports abortion rights — has previously defended her decision to vote for Gorsuch and Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmations. Read Full StoryMajority Leader Schumer says the Senate will vote on an abortion rights billSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised to hold a vote that would codify federal abortion rights into law."A vote on this legislation is not an abstract exercise. This is as urgent and real as it gets," Schumer said during a speech on the Senate floor. "We will vote to protect a woman's right to choose and every American is going to see on which side every American stands."Read Full StoryBiden says it's up to 'voters to elect pro-choice officials' after leaked SCOTUS draft opinionBiden at former Vice President Walter Mondale’s memorial service in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 1, 2022.Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty ImagesPresident Joe Biden urged voters to elect pro-choice lawmakers in the wake of a leaked draft opinion seemingly suggesting that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Biden in a Tuesday statement said at a federal level, the country needs "more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House" so he can pass legislation to codify Roe v. Wade. "If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation's elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman's right to choose," the president added. "And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November." Read Full StoryMcConnell lashes out at Democrats over reactions to Roe v. Wade leakSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) departs the US Capitol on April 27, 2022.STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty ImagesSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed Democrats over their reactions to the leaked draft opinion showing the Supreme Court is set to undo abortion rights. "By every indication, this was yet another escalation in the radical left's ongoing campaign to bully and intimidate federal judges and substitute mob rule for the rule of law," McConnell said in a statement.He also called the leak "an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court." Read Full StoryCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes to build a statewide constitutional 'firewall' around abortion rightsCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday proposed building a statewide constitutional "firewall" around abortion rights."California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution," Newsom said in a joint statement with California's State Senate President Toni Atkins and State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.The statement said California lawmakers will propose a constitutional amendment to "enshrine the right to choose."Read Full StoryDemocrats plan to make abortion rights a huge midterm issueAbortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Washington, as the court hears arguments in a case from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Democrats plan to make abortion a main talking point ahead of the fall midterm elections if the Supreme Court overturns existing protections for women's reproductive rights.If the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is overturned, pro-choice groups say outrage could help inspire people to vote. "The reality is abortion is absolutely going to be on the ballot in 2022, no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Kristin Ford, vice president of communications at NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Insider in March.Read Full StoryDemocrats are worried that same-sex marriage and civil rights could be targeted next after SCOTUS leakDemocratic lawmakers are concerned that same-sex marriage and civil rights could be undone next in the wake of a leaked draft opinion showing the Supreme Court is set to overturn abortion rights.The Supreme Court "isn't just coming for abortion - they're coming for the right to privacy Roe rests on, which includes gay marriage + civil rights," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday.Legal scholar Laurence Tribe wrote on Twitter that next steps may include a "nationwide abortion ban, followed by a push to roll back rights to contraception, same-sex marriage, sexual privacy, and the full array of textually unenumerated rights long taken for granted." Read Full StorySCOTUS leaked draft opinion is unprecedented, but details about Court deliberations have been made public beforeCaroline McDonald, left, a student at Georgetown University, Lauren Morrissey, with Catholics for Choice, and Pamela Huber, of Washington, join a pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, as arguments are set to begin about abortion by the court, on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP Photo/Jacquelyn MartinThe leaked draft opinion seemingly showing that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade is certainly unprecedented. An entire draft opinion has never been leaked like this before. But details about justices' deliberations have been made public before — for example a 1972 memo about Roe that was leaked to the Washington Post before it became public. Read Full StoryBiden has been reluctant to say the word 'abortion' throughout his termPresident Joe Biden has been reluctant to publicly say the word "abortion" since he took office in January 2021.According to CNN, he has never said the word "abortion" out loud and used it a few times in some written statements. During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to codify the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.Read Full StoryDemocrats want to 'codify Roe,' but it's unlikely to succeedSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer discusses efforts to codify Roe v. Wade into law this past February.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesIn the wake of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion, Democrats have quickly organized to codify Roe v. Wade and make it a law.One thing stopping Democrats' efforts, however, is the Senate filibuster. Democrats are currently focusing on the Women's Health Protection Act as a way to protect women's' federal right to abortion. Read Full StoryA constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights is nearly impossible to get throughThe First Printing of the Final Text of the United States Constitution is on display during a press preview at Sotheby's on September 17, 2021 in New York City.Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty ImagesAmending the Constitution is extremely difficult and rare. An amendment protecting abortion rights is nearly impossible.Abortion rights amendments have previously been proposed by both supporters and opponents. In the 233-year-long lifespan of the Constitution, it has only been amended 27 times — most recently in 1992 — and would require massive support in Congress and among states.  Read Full StoryLegal experts are shocked the drafted decision leakedSeated from left: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left: Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty ImagesLegal experts have expressed shock at the fact that a draft opinion from the Supreme Court was leaked to Politico. "The fact that it leaked is, to me, the most surprising thing," Harvard Law School professor I. Glenn Cohen told Insider.Mark Kende, a law professor at Drake University, told Insider that it's "highly disturbing that the opinion was improperly leaked in an unprecedented way, presumably by someone at the Court."Read Full StoryTop Democrats slam SCOTUS justices for 'one of the worst' decisions in historySenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi.AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed the potential Supreme Court ruling as  "one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history."Their remarks came in response to a leaked draft opinion published by Politico that appears to show the Supreme Court is set to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case. "If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years – not just on women but on all Americans," Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. Read Full StoryProtesters in support of Roe v. Wade gathered outside Supreme CourtPro-choice and anti-abortion activist rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. In an initial draft majority opinion obtained by Politico, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito allegedly wrote that the cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern v. Casey should be overruled, which would end federal protection of abortion rights across the country.Kevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesHundreds of protestors gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, late on Monday night after Politico published a leaked draft opinion suggesting that Roe v. Wade was poised to be overturned. "I got down here early, right, cause I got home from a long day kicked off shoes my shoes, opened Twitter, saw that Roe v. Wade was trending to be overturned, put my shoes back on, and came right back from east of the river," Rev. Wendy Hamilton, a Democratic congressional candidate from DC, told Insider. Read Full StoryLeaked draft opinion shows SCOTUS set to overturn Roe v. WadeThe U.S. Supreme Court building is seen at sunset in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesA leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico appears to show that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that granted women the constitutional right to an abortion.Politico late Monday published the 98-page initial draft majority opinion, purportedly authored by Justice Samuel Alito who said Roe was "egregiously wrong from the start.""We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," the draft opinion says, labeled as the "Opinion of the Court," according to the report.The decision — if finalized — would mark a momentous shift in constitutional rights. Over a dozen GOP states have laws that would immediately restrict abortion access if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Read Full StoryRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 3rd, 2022

Live updates: Supreme Court confirms leaked draft overturning Roe v. Wade is real, but noted the ruling isn"t final

Over a dozen GOP-led states have laws that would immediately restrict abortion access if the Supreme Court throws out Roe v. Wade. Pro-choice demonstrators hold signs in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2022.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images The Supreme Court confirmed a leaked draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade is authentic. The ruling — which hasn't been finalized — would throw out a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion. President Joe Biden urged voters to elect pro-choice lawmakers during the upcoming midterms.  Some companies are covering travel costs for employees seeking abortion in different statesSarah Goggans (C) holds her daughter Lilith Centola in front of the US Supreme Court as demonstrators gather in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2022.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesSome US companies are taking steps in response to increasing restrictions on abortion access.  Amazon, Apple, and Citi, for example, are covering travel costs for employees seeking abortion in different states.At least half of US states are "certain or likely" to ban abortion if the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is struck down, according to analysis by the Guttmacher Institute.Read Full StoryAOC calls Sen. Kyrsten Sinema 'an obstructionist' and rips on the Arizona lawmakerSen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images; J. Scott Applewhite, File/Associated PressRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Sen. Kyrsten Sinema "an obstructionist" and slammed the Arizona lawmaker for refusing to support changes to the Senate filibuster to codify abortion protections."We could protect Roe tomorrow, but Sinema refuses to act on the filibuster. Until that changes she can take a seat talking about 'women's access to health care,'" Ocasio-Cortez said, calling for Sinema to be primaried. Read Full StoryRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said her "confidence" in SCOTUS has been rockedRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said her "confidence" in the Supreme Court has been rocked after the leaked draft opinion suggesting Roe v. Wade would be overturned. "Roe is still the law of the land. We don't know the direction that this decision may ultimately take, but if it goes in the direction that this leaked copy has indicated I will just tell you that it rocks my confidence in the court right now," she told reporters. Murkowski, who supports abortion rights, voted to approve Conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.Read Full StoryKamala Harris says the 'rights of all Americans are at risk' after leaked draft opinionVice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff disembark from Air Force 2 at San Francisco International Airport on April 21, 2022 in California.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesVice President Kamala Harris said in a statement that "the rights of all Americans are at risk" as the Supreme Court seems set to overturn Roe v. Wade. "If the right to privacy is weakened, every person could face a future in which the government can potentially interfere in the personal decisions you make about your life," Harris said.She added: "Republican legislators in states across the country are weaponizing the use of the law against women."Read Full StorySen. Elizabeth Warren rips Republicans for 'plotting' to get a conservative Supreme CourtU.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to pro-choice demonstrators outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on May 03, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesSen. Elizabeth Warren slammed Republicans for "plotting" to get a conservative Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade. "The Republicans have been working toward this day for decades," Warren told reporters Tuesday. "They have been out there plotting, carefully cultivating these Supreme Court justices so they could have a majority on the bench who would accomplish something that the majority of Americans do not want."She said she's "angry and upset and determined," after the leaked draft opinion appearing to signal the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling will be overturned. Read Full StorySen. Kyrsten Sinema stands by her support of the Senate filibusterSen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Feb. 1, 2022 in Washington.Al Drago/Bloomberg via AP, FileSen. Kyrsten Sinema is standing by her support of the Senate filibuster, busting Democrats' hopes of codifying Roe v. Wade into law.  "Protections in the Senate safeguarding against the erosion of women's access to health care have been used half-a-dozen times in the past ten years, and are more important now than ever," she said in a Tuesday statement.The filibuster requires most legislation to get a three-fifths majority to head to debate, meaning Democrats can't pass many policy items in an evenly divided Senate.  Read Full StoryRep. Cori Bush said she's 'broken up' by the Roe v. Wade draft opinionDemocratic Rep. Cori Bush — who previously revealed she got an abortion after being raped as a teen — said she was "broken up" after the leaked draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court would overturn the constitutional right to abortion."I'm pretty broken up," the 45-year-old Missouri congresswoman told The New York Times in an interview on Tuesday.She added: "Whether you have an abortion, or whether you have the child, no one is on that table with you. No one is on that bed with you."Read Full StorySupreme Court confirms authenticity of leaked draft opinion gutting abortion rightsU.S. Supreme Court Police officers set up barricades on the sidewalk as pro-choice and anti-abortion activists demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on May 03, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesThe Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft opinion that would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing abortion rights."Although the document described in yesterday's reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case," the court said in a statement.Chief Justice John Roberts announced the court will investigate to find out who leaked the document.Read Full StorySusan Collins slams Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh after leaked draft opinionSusan CollinsGreg Nash-Pool/Getty ImagesRepublican Sen. Susan Collins slammed conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of the leaked draft opinion that would overturn the right to an abortion."If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office," Collins said in a statement.Collins — who supports abortion rights — has previously defended her decision to vote for Gorsuch and Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmations. Read Full StoryMajority Leader Schumer says the Senate will vote on an abortion rights billSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised to hold a vote that would codify federal abortion rights into law."A vote on this legislation is not an abstract exercise. This is as urgent and real as it gets," Schumer said during a speech on the Senate floor. "We will vote to protect a woman's right to choose and every American is going to see on which side every American stands."Read Full StoryBiden says it's up to 'voters to elect pro-choice officials' after leaked SCOTUS draft opinionBiden at former Vice President Walter Mondale’s memorial service in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 1, 2022.Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty ImagesPresident Joe Biden urged voters to elect pro-choice lawmakers in the wake of a leaked draft opinion seemingly suggesting that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Biden in a Tuesday statement said at a federal level, the country needs "more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House" so he can pass legislation to codify Roe v. Wade. "If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation's elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman's right to choose," the president added. "And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November." Read Full StoryMcConnell lashes out at Democrats over reactions to Roe v. Wade leakSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) departs the US Capitol on April 27, 2022.STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty ImagesSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed Democrats over their reactions to the leaked draft opinion showing the Supreme Court is set to undo abortion rights. "By every indication, this was yet another escalation in the radical left's ongoing campaign to bully and intimidate federal judges and substitute mob rule for the rule of law," McConnell said in a statement.He also called the leak "an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court." Read Full StoryCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes to build a statewide constitutional 'firewall' around abortion rightsCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday proposed building a statewide constitutional "firewall" around abortion rights."California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution," Newsom said in a joint statement with California's State Senate President Toni Atkins and State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.The statement said California lawmakers will propose a constitutional amendment to "enshrine the right to choose."Read Full StoryDemocrats plan to make abortion rights a huge midterm issueAbortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Washington, as the court hears arguments in a case from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Democrats plan to make abortion a main talking point ahead of the fall midterm elections if the Supreme Court overturns existing protections for women's reproductive rights.If the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is overturned, pro-choice groups say outrage could help inspire people to vote. "The reality is abortion is absolutely going to be on the ballot in 2022, no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Kristin Ford, vice president of communications at NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Insider in March.Read Full StoryDemocrats are worried that same-sex marriage and civil rights could be targeted next after SCOTUS leakDemocratic lawmakers are concerned that same-sex marriage and civil rights could be undone next in the wake of a leaked draft opinion showing the Supreme Court is set to overturn abortion rights.The Supreme Court "isn't just coming for abortion - they're coming for the right to privacy Roe rests on, which includes gay marriage + civil rights," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday.Legal scholar Laurence Tribe wrote on Twitter that next steps may include a "nationwide abortion ban, followed by a push to roll back rights to contraception, same-sex marriage, sexual privacy, and the full array of textually unenumerated rights long taken for granted." Read Full StorySCOTUS leaked draft opinion is unprecedented, but details about Court deliberations have been made public beforeCaroline McDonald, left, a student at Georgetown University, Lauren Morrissey, with Catholics for Choice, and Pamela Huber, of Washington, join a pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, as arguments are set to begin about abortion by the court, on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP Photo/Jacquelyn MartinThe leaked draft opinion seemingly showing that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade is certainly unprecedented. An entire draft opinion has never been leaked like this before. But details about justices' deliberations have been made public before — for example a 1972 memo about Roe that was leaked to the Washington Post before it became public. Read Full StoryBiden has been reluctant to say the word 'abortion' throughout his termPresident Joe Biden has been reluctant to publicly say the word "abortion" since he took office in January 2021.According to CNN, he has never said the word "abortion" out loud and used it a few times in some written statements. During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to codify the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.Read Full StoryDemocrats want to 'codify Roe,' but it's unlikely to succeedSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer discusses efforts to codify Roe v. Wade into law this past February.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesIn the wake of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion, Democrats have quickly organized to codify Roe v. Wade and make it a law.One thing stopping Democrats' efforts, however, is the Senate filibuster. Democrats are currently focusing on the Women's Health Protection Act as a way to protect women's' federal right to abortion. Read Full StoryA constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights is nearly impossible to get throughThe First Printing of the Final Text of the United States Constitution is on display during a press preview at Sotheby's on September 17, 2021 in New York City.Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty ImagesAmending the Constitution is extremely difficult and rare. An amendment protecting abortion rights is nearly impossible.Abortion rights amendments have previously been proposed by both supporters and opponents. In the 233-year-long lifespan of the Constitution, it has only been amended 27 times — most recently in 1992 — and would require massive support in Congress and among states.  Read Full StoryLegal experts are shocked the drafted decision leakedSeated from left: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left: Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty ImagesLegal experts have expressed shock at the fact that a draft opinion from the Supreme Court was leaked to Politico. "The fact that it leaked is, to me, the most surprising thing," Harvard Law School professor I. Glenn Cohen told Insider.Mark Kende, a law professor at Drake University, told Insider that it's "highly disturbing that the opinion was improperly leaked in an unprecedented way, presumably by someone at the Court."Read Full StoryTop Democrats slam SCOTUS justices for 'one of the worst' decisions in historySenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi.AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed the potential Supreme Court ruling as  "one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history."Their remarks came in response to a leaked draft opinion published by Politico that appears to show the Supreme Court is set to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case. "If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years – not just on women but on all Americans," Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. Read Full StoryProtesters in support of Roe v. Wade gathered outside Supreme CourtPro-choice and anti-abortion activist rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. In an initial draft majority opinion obtained by Politico, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito allegedly wrote that the cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern v. Casey should be overruled, which would end federal protection of abortion rights across the country.Kevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesHundreds of protestors gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, late on Monday night after Politico published a leaked draft opinion suggesting that Roe v. Wade was poised to be overturned. "I got down here early, right, cause I got home from a long day kicked off shoes my shoes, opened Twitter, saw that Roe v. Wade was trending to be overturned, put my shoes back on, and came right back from east of the river," Rev. Wendy Hamilton, a Democratic congressional candidate from DC, told Insider. Read Full StoryLeaked draft opinion shows SCOTUS set to overturn Roe v. WadeThe U.S. Supreme Court building is seen at sunset in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesA leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico appears to show that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that granted women the constitutional right to an abortion.Politico late Monday published the 98-page initial draft majority opinion, purportedly authored by Justice Samuel Alito who said Roe was "egregiously wrong from the start.""We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," the draft opinion says, labeled as the "Opinion of the Court," according to the report.The decision — if finalized — would mark a momentous shift in constitutional rights. Over a dozen GOP states have laws that would immediately restrict abortion access if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Read Full StoryRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 3rd, 2022

Tesla’s Ambitions in India Will Test Elon Musk’s Commitment to ‘Free Speech’

Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter could give the Indian government extra leverage to crack down on critics—despite Musk’s stated aims to preserve free speech on the platform—due to Tesla’s business ambitions in the country. Under its current leadership, Twitter has alienated the Indian government by repeatedly rejecting its demands to remove tweets critical of Prime… Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter could give the Indian government extra leverage to crack down on critics—despite Musk’s stated aims to preserve free speech on the platform—due to Tesla’s business ambitions in the country. Under its current leadership, Twitter has alienated the Indian government by repeatedly rejecting its demands to remove tweets critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party. It comes at a time when observers are warning that the country is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for Muslims and oppressed castes—especially women belonging to those groups—thanks in part to hate speech, threats and harassment on social media. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] But Musk’s Tesla, Inc., is currently lobbying the Modi government to reduce taxes on vehicle imports, which are preventing the electric vehicle maker from accessing a potentially giant market of customers in India. “Elon Musk would be CEO of both a company seeking policy adjustments from the Indian government, as well as the owner of Twitter,” says Jessica Deere, the director of Washington D.C.-based tech watchdog Ranking Digital Rights. “There are certainly conflicts of interest there.” Read More: Twitter Employees Worry About Elon Musk Ownership Many, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, have wondered publicly whether Musk’s business ambitions for Tesla in China, its second most-important market after the U.S., will give the Chinese government leverage to demand Musk suppress the speech of critics of the ruling communist party on Twitter. Tesla’s incentive to keep the government happy in India will perhaps test even further how much Musk really means what he says about freedom of speech. Last summer, Musk tweeted that Tesla wants to enter the Indian market, but can’t because “import duties are the highest in the world by far of any large country.” New Delhi has frustrated Musk’s ambitions by levying import taxes of 100% on cars worth more than $40,000, and 60% on cheaper vehicles. ”We are hopeful that there will be at least a temporary tariff relief for electric vehicles,” Musk added in another tweet. “That would be much appreciated.” Tesla has proposed an import duty for 40% on electric vehicles, but reports in the Indian press say the government has asked for more assurances of investment in the country. “Still working through a lot of challenges with the government,” Musk tweeted in January 2022, after an Indian user asked him when Teslas would be available for purchase. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Musk has said he will run Twitter based on free-speech principles to the extent that the laws of countries where Twitter operates will allow. “By ‘free speech,’ I simply mean that which matches the law,” the billionaire tweeted on April 26. “I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.” In the U.S., freedom of speech is protected by the first amendment. But in India, national laws include restrictions on free speech online, including the legal necessity for platforms to remove content that threatens “decency” or that government officials believe threatens the “interests” of India. Last year, Twitter clashed with the Indian government after it demanded the platform remove content critical of the ruling party. Twitter ruled instead to leave up some of the content for reasons of freedom of expression. Read More: Elon Musk and the Tech Bro Obsession With ‘Free Speech’ “In keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians,” Twitter said in a statement at the time. The platform also began labeling some government tweets containing disinformation, prompting Indian police to raid Twitter’s New Delhi offices. “There is also the worry that Twitter being taken private would erode the transparency that Twitter has shown up until this point,” Deere says. “Without that transparency, it’s very difficult to evaluate any sorts of conflict of interest and how it would play out on the platform.” Deere’s organization Ranking Digital Rights recently ranked Twitter top among all tech companies for standing up for its users’ digital rights, though said the company could still be doing much more. As with other social media companies in India, Musk’s business incentives present a potential conflict of interest when it comes to protecting users’ safety. In 2020, India’s political opposition criticized Facebook over reports that it repeatedly refused to remove instances of anti-Muslim hate speech, while it was campaigning to lobby Indian telecoms regulators for a permit to expand its WhatsApp payment systems—a potentially multi-billion dollar business opportunity. In what could already be seen as a potential olive branch to the Indian government, Musk has suggested that he wishes to rid Twitter of its top policy executive, Vijaya Gadde, who is of Indian descent and who was ultimately responsible for the company’s decisions to reject the Indian government’s demands to remove critical tweets. In the days following the announcement of the planned acquisition, Musk targeted Gadde specifically in his tweets, effectively accusing her of being Twitter’s lead censor, resulting in legions of his fans harassing her on the site. Several Twitter employees told TIME they assume her days at the company are limited. “People have no idea how wrong Musk is about this,” wrote Mike Masnick, editor of the tech news site Techdirt, in a tweet. “I know of few people on this planet more supportive of ACTUAL free speech than Vijaya. She has done more to protect free speech than he ever has.” Risk for marginalized groups in India The harassment levied by Musk fans against Gadde mirrors the systemic harassment that supporters of India’s ruling party have long used to silence critics and marginalized groups on Twitter. Many marginalized groups in India fear that they will be the biggest victims of any rollbacks of Twitter’s content moderation policies. Chief among them are Dalits, formerly known by the pejorative term “untouchables,” the most oppressed class of peoples under India’s rigid caste hierarchy. In 2020, Twitter added caste as a “protected category” under the site’s policies, making it easier for Twitter to tackle caste-based hate speech and harassment. The change only came after a sustained campaign of advocacy by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), an organisation working on the policy and advocacy for the issues of marginalised communities in India. Beena Pallical, the director of the NCDHR, says the campaign arose from her experience witnessing rampant caste-based abuse on Twitter, but seeing no mechanism to report it. “The current Twitter policy team [led by Gadde] has been very cooperative and understanding,” she tells TIME. “These changes are not enough as the space continues to be unsafe for many marginalized community voices, but the current team is still very receptive to these changes, making many efforts to fix loopholes on Twitter that make the space unsafe.” Read More: Caste Is More Relevant to Indian Politics Than Ever Pallical expressed concerns over Elon Musk’s self-professed “free speech absolutism,” as many caste-based slurs are not recognized by Indian law and thus would not fall under content that Musk has professed he would be bound to take down. In India, public conversation on Twitter is predominantly directed by dominant castes, and despite caste now being a protected category by Twitter, caste-based abuse and harassment is still common. “Not a single day goes by when I don’t get a casteist remark on Twitter,” says Meena Kotwal, a Dalit journalist who reports primarily on gender and caste issues. “I regularly get death and rape threats and I have filed two police complaints, but no actions have been taken yet.” Recently Kotwal was pressured by police to remove a tweet that was critical of the caste system. “When the government and the police themselves are hounding anti-caste voices, you can imagine how hard it is to be vocal about our oppression,” Kotwal says. Musk has said he wants Twitter to respect freedom of speech in line with the law. By doing so in India, he will satisfy a government that is using speech laws to crack down on its critics and its most oppressed communities. “Laws in India, specifically pertaining to free speech, have been used against marginalized communities, instead of favoring them,” says Subhajit Naskar, associate professor of Political Science at Jadavpur University. The takeover of Twitter by Musk, Naskar says, represents “a grave danger to the anti-caste movement.”.....»»

Category: topSource: timeApr 29th, 2022

Disney"s "Don"t Say Gay" misstep holds a key lesson: CEOs are human-rights leaders now, whether they like it or not

Companies can't dodge political fights, as consumers and employees press corporations to reflect their personal values. Disney learned the hard way. Disney CEO Bob Chapek mishandled the response to an anti-LGBTQ law in Florida, business and political strategists said.Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images Corporate leaders are having to get political, whether they like it or not. A strategist said Disney's response to the so-called Don't Say Gay law "didn't please anyone." Advisors say CEOs need to adapt quickly because the social-outrage machine is not going away. The Walt Disney Company has always meant to evoke happiness and magic.But the company is at the center of an ugly cultural and political battle because of its response to the GOP's new Parental Rights in Education law in Florida, where Disney employs some 60,000 workers.Opponents call the law "Don't Say Gay" because it restricts instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools and bans it in kindergarten through third grade. LGBTQ advocates also argue the law could lead to teachers outing their students.The new law forced Bob Chapek, who's been the CEO of Disney since 2020, to step into the fracas — and he faced a storm of criticism over his statements about the law and their timing. Experts say the way he handled the company's response to the law is a lesson for business leaders to be proactive and deliberate about social-justice issues."I think that they didn't please anyone," said Rodell Mollineau, a cofounder and partner at Rokk Solutions, a bipartisan public affairs and strategic communications agency in Washington, DC. "They moved too slowly on the front end and then there was awkward execution on the back end."Critics said Chapek appeared to take a stand on LGBTQ rights only after outrage from employees and consumers, something that seems at odds with the company's purpose, outlined on its website, to "amplify underrepresented voices and untold stories and champion a multitude of perspectives."To many employees and consumers, Chapek appears reactionary, business professors and consultants said. And he faces the wrath of Florida Republicans; Disney will be losing its special tax status in the state.A Disney spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Disney's mishap is emblematic of an issue that leaders are wrestling with: figuring out their new role in society as ushers of profit and social fairness. The professors and consultants said that instead of avoiding social issues, leaders must be prepared to take bold stands on those that are relevant to their stakeholders.Experts suggested business leaders work with employees and consumers to identify human-rights issues that are important to them so they can be proactive. They also said CEOs should better incorporate social issues in their companies' core strategy and be prepared to communicate more often on these issues."This is not going away, and it's not just about LGBTQ rights," said Martin Whittaker, the CEO of Just Capital, a research firm and business consultancy. "There's a broader shift that's happening. It's about what role business plays in society."Rokk Solutions pointed to Harris polling from December 2020 that found that 72% of consumers indicated they would "remember the companies that took missteps in their response to the issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic security of their workforce, or racial injustice long after this is over." But 82% indicated they thought that "this is an opportunity for large companies to hit the 'reset' button and focus on doing right by their workers, customers, community and the environment."Steve Rochlin, the CEO and founder of Impact ROI, a sustainability firm, said that many companies are committed to environmental, social, and governance work but aren't synchronizing it with their public-policy work. And they're facing pressure from activists who expect these agendas to be aligned."This is literally terra nova for a lot of these leaders," he said. "So it's a very, very tricky situation."Disney employees during a walkout on March 22.Irfan Khan/Getty ImagesSpeak out — or risk your reputationThe old way of conducting business was, by and large, to stay silent on controversial issues and focus comments exclusively on business issues. But over the past 30 years, Rochlin said, companies have been moving toward becoming environmental and social leaders — and talking about it.Political polarization and the events of 2020, including the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, changed the playbook, CEOs and consultants say."Investors are turning to the activists and the loudest voices of the advocates to figure out what questions they should be asking" during investor calls, Rochlin said.Impact ROI and Rokk Solutions last year partnered to develop customized response frameworks to help companies decide when and how they should communicate when issues come up.Ron Bonjean, another Rokk Solutions cofounder and partner, said that while "we're now in a new phase of business," some companies haven't caught up. Bonjean, a former spokesman for Republican leaders in the House and the Senate, said it's better to have a purposeful, formal process for dealing with issues to avoid an "accidental domino effect."Mollineau said that Disney, for instance, could have throughout the legislative process explained its displeasure with the bill and pledged to work with Florida legislators to make it more palatable. If the bill didn't change, it would have been able to tell employees and other stakeholders that it had tried to make the bill better, he said."That's a better process," he said.Silence isn't acceptable anymore, said Ranjay Gulati, a Harvard Business School professor who wrote the book "Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies." Gulati said (and research from Edelman has found) that empowered employees and consumers want leaders to take action on global issues."This is just the reality now," Whittaker said. "If you don't create a narrative that is rooted in really what you stand for, then one will get created for you."Jon Henes, the CEO of C Street Advisory Group, a business consultancy, said Disney's Chapek isn't the only one struggling with this new era of business. "Whether today's CEOs signed up for it or not, we cannot be just business leaders, we need to be human-rights leaders," Henes said.Indeed, many other companies have recently been embroiled in America's culture wars.A woman holds a Black Lives Matter flag at a march in Minneapolis on June 6, 2021.AP Photo/Christian MonterrosaIn June 2020, Facebook lost millions of dollars in revenue after companies pulled their ads from the platform over allegations that the tech giant wasn't doing enough to stop the spread of hate on its platform. In March 2021, the CEOs of Delta, Coca-Cola, and other companies spoke out against a restrictive voting law in Georgia after pressure from Black executives. In May 2021, several Basecamp employees quit after the company banned political talk at work. In December, Netflix employees staged a walkout over Dave Chapelle's comedy special that many called transphobic."Whether it's LGBTQ rights, whether it's Black Lives Matter, whether it's abortion, it's about people at your company feeling marginalized and feeling under attack. So the question is are you standing up for your employees? Or are you saying this group of employees doesn't matter to me as much?" Henes said. "I think that is really where the rubber hits the road."Incorporating social issues into business strategy"In a situation where you can't please everybody, you have to figure out what your objectives are," Whittaker said. "Don't trust your assumptions; get real data."CEOs can gather insights on social-justice issues through internal company surveys and consumer surveys or through work with diversity consultants. Gulati said leaders should also revisit their company's mission and see if their current stance on social issues aligns with it."There is real meaning attached to Disney, and they need to tap into that meaning and really remind themselves of their place in the world," he said.A 2019 survey conducted by the Brunswick Group, a corporate-leadership firm, suggested that people thinking about changing jobs or joining a new employer consider leaders' stance on social issues. And investments focused on social issues, also known as ESG investments, have skyrocketed over the past few years.Gulati said that CEOs' taking social stances that are important to employees and consumers should not be conflated with the notion that they are ignoring shareholders, who may suffer short-term financial blowback. He added that creating more loyal employees and consumers in the long run benefits shareholders."Purpose is not saying shareholders don't matter," he said. "Purpose is saying we have greater clarity on our mission and that will help us create long-term value for shareholders."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 29th, 2022

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma"s Political Reach

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma's Political Reach Authored by Rebecca Strong via Medium.com, They keep telling us to “trust the science.” But who paid for it? After graduating from Columbia University with a chemical engineering degree, my grandfather went on to work for Pfizer for almost two decades, culminating his career as the company’s Global Director of New Products. I was rather proud of this fact growing up — it felt as if this father figure, who raised me for several years during my childhood, had somehow played a role in saving lives. But in recent years, my perspective on Pfizer — and other companies in its class — has shifted. Blame it on the insidious big pharma corruption laid bare by whistleblowers in recent years. Blame it on the endless string of big pharma lawsuits revealing fraud, deception, and cover-ups. Blame it on the fact that I witnessed some of their most profitable drugs ruin the lives of those I love most. All I know is, that pride I once felt has been overshadowed by a sticky skepticism I just can’t seem to shake. In 1973, my grandpa and his colleagues celebrated as Pfizer crossed a milestone: the one-billion-dollar sales mark. These days, Pfizer rakes in $81 billion a year, making it the 28th most valuable company in the world. Johnson & Johnson ranks 15th, with $93.77 billion. To put things into perspective, that makes said companies wealthier than most countries in the world. And thanks to those astronomical profit margins, the Pharmaceuticals and Health Products industry is able to spend more on lobbying than any other industry in America. While big pharma lobbying can take several different forms, these companies tend to target their contributions to senior legislators in Congress — you know, the ones they need to keep in their corner, because they have the power to draft healthcare laws. Pfizer has outspent its peers in six of the last eight election cycles, coughing up almost $9.7 million. During the 2016 election, pharmaceutical companies gave more than $7 million to 97 senators at an average of $75,000 per member. They also contributed $6.3 million to president Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. The question is: what did big pharma get in return? When you've got 1,500 Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill for 535 members of Congress, it's not too hard to figure out why prescription drug prices in this country are, on average, 256% HIGHER than in other major countries. — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2022 ALEC’s Off-the-Record Sway To truly grasp big pharma’s power, you need to understand how The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works. ALEC, which was founded in 1973 by conservative activists working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign, is a super secretive pay-to-play operation where corporate lobbyists — including in the pharma sector — hold confidential meetings about “model” bills. A large portion of these bills is eventually approved and become law. A rundown of ALEC’s greatest hits will tell you everything you need to know about the council’s motives and priorities. In 1995, ALEC promoted a bill that restricts consumers’ rights to sue for damages resulting from taking a particular medication. They also endorsed the Statute of Limitation Reduction Act, which put a time limit on when someone could sue after a medication-induced injury or death. Over the years, ALEC has promoted many other pharma-friendly bills that would: weaken FDA oversight of new drugs and therapies, limit FDA authority over drug advertising, and oppose regulations on financial incentives for doctors to prescribe specific drugs. But what makes these ALEC collaborations feel particularly problematic is that there’s little transparency — all of this happens behind closed doors. Congressional leaders and other committee members involved in ALEC aren’t required to publish any records of their meetings and other communications with pharma lobbyists, and the roster of ALEC members is completely confidential. All we know is that in 2020, more than two-thirds of Congress — 72 senators and 302 House of Representatives members — cashed a campaign check from a pharma company. Big Pharma Funding Research The public typically relies on an endorsement from government agencies to help them decide whether or not a new drug, vaccine, or medical device is safe and effective. And those agencies, like the FDA, count on clinical research. As already established, big pharma is notorious for getting its hooks into influential government officials. Here’s another sobering truth: The majority of scientific research is paid for by — wait for it — the pharmaceutical companies. When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published 73 studies of new drugs over the course of a single year, they found that a staggering 82% of them had been funded by the pharmaceutical company selling the product, 68% had authors who were employees of that company, and 50% had lead researchers who accepted money from a drug company. According to 2013 research conducted at the University of Arizona College of Law, even when pharma companies aren’t directly funding the research, company stockholders, consultants, directors, and officers are almost always involved in conducting them. A 2017 report by the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ also showed that about half of medical journal editors receive payments from drug companies, with the average payment per editor hovering around $28,000. But these statistics are only accurate if researchers and editors are transparent about payments from pharma. And a 2022 investigative analysis of two of the most influential medical journals found that 81% of study authors failed to disclose millions in payments from drug companies, as they’re required to do. Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The number of clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry has been climbing every year since 2006, according to a John Hopkins University report, while independent studies have been harder to find. And there are some serious consequences to these conflicts of interest. Take Avandia, for instance, a diabetes drug produced by GlaxoSmithCline (GSK). Avandia was eventually linked to a dramatically increased risk of heart attacks and heart failure. And a BMJ report revealed that almost 90% of scientists who initially wrote glowing articles about Avandia had financial ties to GSK. But here’s the unnerving part: if the pharmaceutical industry is successfully biasing the science, then that means the physicians who rely on the science are biased in their prescribing decisions. Photo credit: UN Women Europe & Central Asia Where the lines get really blurry is with “ghostwriting.” Big pharma execs know citizens are way more likely to trust a report written by a board-certified doctor than one of their representatives. That’s why they pay physicians to list their names as authors — even though the MDs had little to no involvement in the research, and the report was actually written by the drug company. This practice started in the ’50s and ’60s when tobacco execs were clamoring to prove that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer (spoiler alert: they do!), so they commissioned doctors to slap their name on papers undermining the risks of smoking. It’s still a pretty common tactic today: more than one in 10 articles published in the NEJM was co-written by a ghostwriter. While a very small percentage of medical journals have clear policies against ghostwriting, it’s still technically legal —despite the fact that the consequences can be deadly. Case in point: in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Merck paid for 73 ghostwritten articles to play up the benefits of its arthritis drug Vioxx. It was later revealed that Merck failed to report all of the heart attacks experienced by trial participants. In fact, a study published in the NEJM revealed that an estimated 160,000 Americans experienced heart attacks or strokes from taking Vioxx. That research was conducted by Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, who understandably concluded the drug was not safe. But the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, which not only was responsible for initially approving Vioxx but also regulating it, tried to sweep his findings under the rug. "I was pressured to change my conclusions and recommendations, and basically threatened that if I did not change them, I would not be permitted to present the paper at the conference," he wrote in his 2004 U.S. Senate testimony on Vioxx. "One Drug Safety manager recommended that I should be barred from presenting the poster at the meeting." Eventually, the FDA issued a public health advisory about Vioxx and Merck withdrew this product. But it was a little late for repercussions — 38,000 of those Vioxx-takers who suffered heart attacks had already died. Graham called this a “profound regulatory failure,” adding that scientific standards the FDA apply to drug safety “guarantee that unsafe and deadly drugs will remain on the U.S. market.” This should come as no surprise, but research has also repeatedly shown that a paper written by a pharmaceutical company is more likely to emphasize the benefits of a drug, vaccine, or device while downplaying the dangers. (If you want to understand more about this practice, a former ghostwriter outlines all the ethical reasons why she quit this job in a PLOS Medicine report.) While adverse drug effects appear in 95% of clinical research, only 46% of published reports disclose them. Of course, all of this often ends up misleading doctors into thinking a drug is safer than it actually is. Big Pharma Influence On Doctors Pharmaceutical companies aren’t just paying medical journal editors and authors to make their products look good, either. There’s a long, sordid history of pharmaceutical companies incentivizing doctors to prescribe their products through financial rewards. For instance, Pfizer and AstraZeneca doled out a combined $100 million to doctors in 2018, with some earning anywhere from $6 million to $29 million in a year. And research has shown this strategy works: when doctors accept these gifts and payments, they’re significantly more likely to prescribe those companies’ drugs. Novartis comes to mind — the company famously spent over $100 million paying for doctors’ extravagant meals, golf outings, and more, all while also providing a generous kickback program that made them richer every time they prescribed certain blood pressure and diabetes meds. Side note: the Open Payments portal contains a nifty little database where you can find out if any of your own doctors received money from drug companies. Knowing that my mother was put on a laundry list of meds after a near-fatal car accident, I was curious — so I did a quick search for her providers. While her PCP only banked a modest amount from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, her previous psychiatrist — who prescribed a cocktail of contraindicated medications without treating her in person — collected quadruple-digit payments from pharmaceutical companies. And her pain care specialist, who prescribed her jaw-dropping doses of opioid pain medication for more than 20 years (far longer than the 5-day safety guideline), was raking in thousands from Purdue Pharma, AKA the opioid crisis’ kingpin. Purdue is now infamous for its wildly aggressive OxyContin campaign in the ’90s. At the time, the company billed it as a non-addictive wonder drug for pain sufferers. Internal emails show Pursue sales representatives were instructed to “sell, sell, sell” OxyContin, and the more they were able to push, the more they were rewarded with promotions and bonuses. With the stakes so high, these reps stopped at nothing to get doctors on board — even going so far as to send boxes of doughnuts spelling out “OxyContin” to unconvinced physicians. Purdue had stumbled upon the perfect system for generating tons of profit — off of other people’s pain. Documentation later proved that not only was Purdue aware it was highly addictive and that many people were abusing it, but that they also encouraged doctors to continue prescribing increasingly higher doses of it (and sent them on lavish luxury vacations for some motivation). In testimony to Congress, Purdue exec Paul Goldenheim played dumb about OxyContin addiction and overdose rates, but emails that were later exposed showed that he requested his colleagues remove all mentions of addiction from their correspondence about the drug. Even after it was proven in court that Purdue fraudulently marketed OxyContin while concealing its addictive nature, no one from the company spent a single day behind bars. Instead, the company got a slap on the wrist and a $600 million fine for a misdemeanor, the equivalent of a speeding ticket compared to the $9 billion they made off OxyContin up until 2006. Meanwhile, thanks to Purdue’s recklessness, more than 247,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2009. And that’s not even factoring in all the people who died of heroin overdoses once OxyContin was no longer attainable to them. The NIH reports that 80% of people who use heroin started by misusing prescription opioids. Former sales rep Carol Panara told me in an interview that when she looks back on her time at Purdue, it all feels like a “bad dream.” Panara started working for Purdue in 2008, one year after the company pled guilty to “misbranding” charges for OxyContin. At this point, Purdue was “regrouping and expanding,” says Panara, and to that end, had developed a clever new approach for making money off OxyContin: sales reps were now targeting general practitioners and family doctors, rather than just pain management specialists. On top of that, Purdue soon introduced three new strengths for OxyContin: 15, 30, and 60 milligrams, creating smaller increments Panara believes were aimed at making doctors feel more comfortable increasing their patients’ dosages. According to Panara, there were internal company rankings for sales reps based on the number of prescriptions for each OxyContin dosing strength in their territory. “They were sneaky about it,” she said. “Their plan was to go in and sell these doctors on the idea of starting with 10 milligrams, which is very low, knowing full well that once they get started down that path — that’s all they need. Because eventually, they’re going to build a tolerance and need a higher dose.” Occasionally, doctors expressed concerns about a patient becoming addicted, but Purdue had already developed a way around that. Sales reps like Panara were taught to reassure those doctors that someone in pain might experience addiction-like symptoms called “pseudoaddiction,” but that didn’t mean they were truly addicted. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support that this concept is legit, of course. But the most disturbing part? Reps were trained to tell doctors that “pseudoaddiction” signaled the patient’s pain wasn’t being managed well enough, and the solution was simply to prescribe a higher dose of OxyContin. Panara finally quit Purdue in 2013. One of the breaking points was when two pharmacies in her territory were robbed at gunpoint specifically for OxyContin. In 2020, Purdue pled guilty to three criminal charges in an $8.3 billion deal, but the company is now under court protection after filing for bankruptcy. Despite all the damage that’s been done, the FDA’s policies for approving opioids remain essentially unchanged. Photo credit: Jennifer Durban Purdue probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off if it weren’t for an FDA examiner named Curtis Wright, and his assistant Douglas Kramer. While Purdue was pursuing Wright’s stamp of approval on OxyContin, Wright took an outright sketchy approach to their application, instructing the company to mail documents to his home office rather than the FDA, and enlisting Purdue employees to help him review trials about the safety of the drug. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that the FDA have access to at least two randomized controlled trials before deeming a drug as safe and effective, but in the case of OxyContin, it got approved with data from just one measly two-week study — in osteoarthritis patients, no less. When both Wright and Kramer left the FDA, they went on to work for none other than (drumroll, please) Purdue, with Wright earning three times his FDA salary. By the way — this is just one example of the FDA’s notoriously incestuous relationship with big pharma, often referred to as “the revolving door”. In fact, a 2018 Science report revealed that 11 out of 16 FDA reviewers ended up at the same companies they had been regulating products for. While doing an independent investigation, “Empire of Pain” author and New Yorker columnist Patrick Radden Keefe tried to gain access to documentation of Wright’s communications with Purdue during the OxyContin approval process. “The FDA came back and said, ‘Oh, it’s the weirdest thing, but we don’t have anything. It’s all either been lost or destroyed,’” Keefe told Fortune in an interview. “But it’s not just the FDA. It’s Congress, it’s the Department of Justice, it’s big parts of the medical establishment … the sheer amount of money involved, I think, has meant that a lot of the checks that should be in place in society to not just achieve justice, but also to protect us as consumers, were not there because they had been co-opted.” Big pharma may be to blame for creating the opioids that caused this public health catastrophe, but the FDA deserves just as much scrutiny — because its countless failures also played a part in enabling it. And many of those more recent fails happened under the supervision of Dr. Janet Woodcock. Woodcock was named FDA’s acting commissioner mere hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. She would have been a logical choice, being an FDA vet of 35 years, but then again it’s impossible to forget that she played a starring role in the FDA’s perpetuating the opioid epidemic. She’s also known for overruling her own scientific advisors when they vote against approving a drug. Not only did Woodcock approve OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, but she also gave the green light to several other highly controversial extended-release opioid pain drugs without sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy. One of those was Zohydro: in 2011, the FDA’s advisory committee voted 11:2 against approving it due to safety concerns about inappropriate use, but Woodcock went ahead and pushed it through, anyway. Under Woodcock’s supervision, the FDA also approved Opana, which is twice as powerful as OxyContin — only to then beg the drug maker to take it off the market 10 years later due to “abuse and manipulation.” And then there was Dsuvia, a potent painkiller 1,000 times stronger than morphine and 10 times more powerful than fentanyl. According to a head of one of the FDA’s advisory committees, the U.S. military had helped to develop this particular drug, and Woodcock said there was “pressure from the Pentagon” to push it through approvals. The FBI, members of congress, public health advocates, and patient safety experts alike called this decision into question, pointing out that with hundreds of opioids already on the market there’s no need for another — particularly one that comes with such high risks. Most recently, Woodcock served as the therapeutics lead for Operation Warp Speed, overseeing COVID-19 vaccine development. Big Pharma Lawsuits, Scandals, and Cover-Ups While the OxyContin craze is undoubtedly one of the highest-profile examples of big pharma’s deception, there are dozens of other stories like this. Here are a few standouts: In the 1980s, Bayer continued selling blood clotting products to third-world countries even though they were fully aware those products had been contaminated with HIV. The reason? The “financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory.” Predictably, about 20,000 of the hemophiliacs who were infused with these tainted products then tested positive for HIV and eventually developed AIDS, and many later died of it. In 2004, Johnson & Johnson was slapped with a series of lawsuits for illegally promoting off-label use of their heartburn drug Propulsid for children despite internal company emails confirming major safety concerns (as in, deaths during the drug trials). Documentation from the lawsuits showed that dozens of studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson highlighting the risks of this drug were never published. The FDA estimates that GSK’s Avandia caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007. Internal documents from GSK prove that when they began studying the effects of the drug as early as 1999, they discovered it caused a higher risk of heart attacks than a similar drug it was meant to replace. Rather than publish these findings, they spent a decade illegally concealing them (and meanwhile, banking $3.2 billion annually for this drug by 2006). Finally, a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study linked Avandia to a 43% increased risk of heart attacks, and a 64% increased risk of death from heart disease. Avandia is still FDA approved and available in the U.S. In 2009, Pfizer was forced to pay $2.3 billion, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in history at that time, for paying illegal kickbacks to doctors and promoting off-label uses of its drugs. Specifically, a former employee revealed that Pfizer reps were encouraged and incentivized to sell Bextra and 12 other drugs for conditions they were never FDA approved for, and at doses up to eight times what’s recommended. “I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives,” the whistleblower said. When it was discovered that AstraZeneca was promoting the antipsychotic medication Seroquel for uses that were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective, the company was hit with a $520 million fine in 2010. For years, AstraZeneca had been encouraging psychiatrists and other physicians to prescribe Seroquel for a vast range of seemingly unrelated off-label conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, ADHD, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness. AstraZeneca also violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute by paying doctors to spread the word about these unapproved uses of Seroquel via promotional lectures and while traveling to resort locations. In 2012, GSK paid a $3 billion fine for bribing doctors by flying them and their spouses to five-star resorts, and for illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses. What’s worse — GSK withheld clinical trial results that showed its antidepressant Paxil not only doesn’t work for adolescents and children but more alarmingly, that it can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in this group. A 1998 GSK internal memo revealed that the company intentionally concealed this data to minimize any “potential negative commercial impact.” In 2021, an ex-AstraZeneca sales rep sued her former employer, claiming they fired her for refusing to promote drugs for uses that weren’t FDA-approved. The employee alleges that on multiple occasions, she expressed concerns to her boss about “misleading” information that didn’t have enough support from medical research, and off-label promotions of certain drugs. Her supervisor reportedly not only ignored these concerns but pressured her to approve statements she didn’t agree with and threatened to remove her from regional and national positions if she didn’t comply. According to the plaintiff, she missed out on a raise and a bonus because she refused to break the law. At the top of 2022, a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and GE Healthcare, which claims they helped finance terrorist attacks against U.S. service members and other Americans in Iraq. The suit alleges that from 2005–2011, these companies regularly offered bribes (including free drugs and medical devices) totaling millions of dollars annually to Iraq’s Ministry of Health in order to secure drug contracts. These corrupt payments then allegedly funded weapons and training for the Mahdi Army, which until 2008, was largely considered one of the most dangerous groups in Iraq. Another especially worrisome factor is that pharmaceutical companies are conducting an ever-increasing number of clinical trials in third-world countries, where people may be less educated, and there are also far fewer safety regulations. Pfizer’s 1996 experimental trials with Trovan on Nigerian children with meningitis — without informed consent — is just one nauseating example. When a former medical director in Pfizer’s central research division warned the company both before and after the study that their methods in this trial were “improper and unsafe,” he was promptly fired. Families of the Nigerian children who died or were left blind, brain damaged, or paralyzed after the study sued Pfizer, and the company ultimately settled out of court. In 1998, the FDA approved Trovan only for adults. The drug was later banned from European markets due to reports of fatal liver disease and restricted to strictly emergency care in the U.S. Pfizer still denies any wrongdoing. “Nurse prepares to vaccinate children” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 But all that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to dive a little further down the rabbit hole — and I’ll warn you, it’s a deep one — a quick Google search for “big pharma lawsuits” will reveal the industry’s dark track record of bribery, dishonesty, and fraud. In fact, big pharma happens to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government when it comes to the False Claims Act, otherwise known as the “Lincoln Law.” During our interview, Panara told me she has friends still working for big pharma who would be willing to speak out about crooked activity they’ve observed, but are too afraid of being blacklisted by the industry. A newly proposed update to the False Claims Act would help to protect and support whistleblowers in their efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies liable, by helping to prevent that kind of retaliation and making it harder for the companies charged to dismiss these cases. It should come as no surprise that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and a flock of other big pharma firms are currently lobbying to block the update. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to make it any easier for ex-employees to expose their wrongdoings, potentially costing them billions more in fines. Something to keep in mind: these are the same people who produced, marketed, and are profiting from the COVID-19 vaccines. The same people who manipulate research, pay off decision-makers to push their drugs, cover up negative research results to avoid financial losses, and knowingly put innocent citizens in harm’s way. The same people who told America: “Take as much OxyContin as you want around the clock! It’s very safe and not addictive!” (while laughing all the way to the bank). So, ask yourself this: if a partner, friend, or family member repeatedly lied to you — and not just little white lies, but big ones that put your health and safety at risk — would you continue to trust them? Backing the Big Four: Big Pharma and the FDA, WHO, NIH, CDC I know what you’re thinking. Big pharma is amoral and the FDA’s devastating slips are a dime a dozen — old news. But what about agencies and organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)? Don’t they have an obligation to provide unbiased guidance to protect citizens? Don’t worry, I’m getting there. The WHO’s guidance is undeniably influential across the globe. For most of this organization’s history, dating back to 1948, it could not receive donations from pharmaceutical companies — only member states. But that changed in 2005 when the WHO updated its financial policy to permit private money into its system. Since then, the WHO has accepted many financial contributions from big pharma. In fact, it’s only 20% financed by member states today, with a whopping 80% of financing coming from private donors. For instance, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is now one of its main contributors, providing up to 13% of its funds — about $250–300 million a year. Nowadays, the BMGF provides more donations to the WHO than the entire United States. Dr. Arata Kochi, former head of WHO’s malaria program, expressed concerns to director-general Dr. Margaret Chan in 2007 that taking the BMGF’s money could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences” including “stifling a diversity of views among scientists.” “The big concerns are that the Gates Foundation isn’t fully transparent and accountable,” Lawrence Gostin, director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex in an interview. “By wielding such influence, it could steer WHO priorities … It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda.” Photo credit: National Institutes of Health Take a peek at the WHO’s list of donors and you’ll find a few other familiar names like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. The NIH has the same problem, it seems. Science journalist Paul Thacker, who previously examined financial links between physicians and pharma companies as a lead investigator of the United States Senate Committee, wrote in The Washington Post that this agency “often ignored” very “obvious” conflicts of interest. He also claimed that “its industry ties go back decades.” In 2018, it was discovered that a $100 million alcohol consumption study run by NIH scientists was funded mostly by beer and liquor companies. Emails proved that NIH researchers were in frequent contact with those companies while designing the study — which, here’s a shocker — were aimed at highlighting the benefits and not the risks of moderate drinking. So, the NIH ultimately had to squash the trial. And then there’s the CDC. It used to be that this agency couldn’t take contributions from pharmaceutical companies, but in 1992 they found a loophole: new legislation passed by Congress allowed them to accept private funding through a nonprofit called the CDC Foundation. From 2014 through 2018 alone, the CDC Foundation received $79.6 million from corporations like Pfizer, Biogen, and Merck. Of course, if a pharmaceutical company wants to get a drug, vaccine, or other product approved, they really need to cozy up to the FDA. That explains why in 2017, pharma companies paid for a whopping 75% of the FDA’s scientific review budgets, up from 27% in 1993. It wasn’t always like this. But in 1992, an act of Congress changed the FDA’s funding stream, enlisting pharma companies to pay “user fees,” which help the FDA speed up the approval process for their drugs. A 2018 Science investigation found that 40 out of 107 physician advisors on the FDA’s committees received more than $10,000 from big pharma companies trying to get their drugs approved, with some banking up to $1 million or more. The FDA claims it has a well-functioning system to identify and prevent these possible conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, their system only works for spotting payments before advisory panels meet, and the Science investigation showed many FDA panel members get their payments after the fact. It’s a little like “you scratch my back now, and I’ll scratch your back once I get what I want” — drug companies promise FDA employees a future bonus contingent on whether things go their way. Here’s why this dynamic proves problematic: a 2000 investigation revealed that when the FDA approved the rotavirus vaccine in 1998, it didn’t exactly do its due diligence. That probably had something to do with the fact that committee members had financial ties to the manufacturer, Merck — many owned tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the company, or even held patents on the vaccine itself. Later, the Adverse Event Reporting System revealed that the vaccine was causing serious bowel obstructions in some children, and it was finally pulled from the U.S. market in October 1999. Then, in June of 2021, the FDA overruled concerns raised by its very own scientific advisory committee to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm — a move widely criticized by physicians. The drug not only showed very little efficacy but also potentially serious side effects like brain bleeding and swelling, in clinical trials. Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a Harvard Medical School professor who was on the FDA’s scientific advisory committee, called it the “worst drug approval” in recent history, and noted that meetings between the FDA and Biogen had a “strange dynamic” suggesting an unusually close relationship. Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told CNN that he believes the FDA started working in “inappropriately close collaboration with Biogen” back in 2019. “They were not objective, unbiased regulators,” he added in the CNN interview. “It seems as if the decision was preordained.” That brings me to perhaps the biggest conflict of interest yet: Dr. Anthony Fauci’s NIAID is just one of many institutes that comprises the NIH — and the NIH owns half the patent for the Moderna vaccine — as well as thousands more pharma patents to boot. The NIAID is poised to earn millions of dollars from Moderna’s vaccine revenue, with individual officials also receiving up to $150,000 annually. Operation Warp Speed In December of 2020, Pfizer became the first company to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for a COVID-19 vaccine. EUAs — which allow the distribution of an unapproved drug or other product during a declared public health emergency — are actually a pretty new thing: the first one was issued in 2005 so military personnel could get an anthrax vaccine. To get a full FDA approval, there needs to be substantial evidence that the product is safe and effective. But for an EUA, the FDA just needs to determine that it may be effective. Since EUAs are granted so quickly, the FDA doesn’t have enough time to gather all the information they’d usually need to approve a drug or vaccine. “Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Event” by The White House is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 Pfizer CEO and chairman Albert Bourla has said his company was “operating at the speed of science” to bring a vaccine to market. However, a 2021 report in The BMJ revealed that this speed might have come at the expense of “data integrity and patient safety.” Brook Jackson, regional director for the Ventavia Research Group, which carried out these trials, told The BMJ that her former company “falsified data, unblinded patients, and employed inadequately trained vaccinators” in Pfizer’s pivotal phase 3 trial. Just some of the other concerning events witnessed included: adverse events not being reported correctly or at all, lack of reporting on protocol deviations, informed consent errors, and mislabeling of lab specimens. An audio recording of Ventavia employees from September 2020 revealed that they were so overwhelmed by issues arising during the study that they became unable to “quantify the types and number of errors” when assessing quality control. One Ventavia employee told The BMJ she’d never once seen a research environment as disorderly as Ventavia’s Pfizer vaccine trial, while another called it a “crazy mess.” Over the course of her two-decades-long career, Jackson has worked on hundreds of clinical trials, and two of her areas of expertise happen to be immunology and infectious diseases. She told me that from her first day on the Pfizer trial in September of 2020, she discovered “such egregious misconduct” that she recommended they stop enrolling participants into the study to do an internal audit. “To my complete shock and horror, Ventavia agreed to pause enrollment but then devised a plan to conceal what I found and to keep ICON and Pfizer in the dark,” Jackson said during our interview. “The site was in full clean-up mode. When missing data points were discovered the information was fabricated, including forged signatures on the informed consent forms.” A screenshot Jackson shared with me shows she was invited to a meeting titled “COVID 1001 Clean up Call” on Sept. 21, 2020. She refused to participate in the call. Jackson repeatedly warned her superiors about patient safety concerns and data integrity issues. “I knew that the entire world was counting on clinical researchers to develop a safe and effective vaccine and I did not want to be a part of that failure by not reporting what I saw,” she told me. When her employer failed to act, Jackson filed a complaint with the FDA on Sept. 25, and Ventavia fired her hours later that same day under the pretense that she was “not a good fit.” After reviewing her concerns over the phone, she claims the FDA never followed up or inspected the Ventavia site. Ten weeks later, the FDA authorized the EUA for the vaccine. Meanwhile, Pfizer hired Ventavia to handle the research for four more vaccine clinical trials, including one involving children and young adults, one for pregnant women, and another for the booster. Not only that, but Ventavia handled the clinical trials for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. Jackson is currently pursuing a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and Ventavia Research Group. Last year, Pfizer banked nearly $37 billion from its COVID vaccine, making it one of the most lucrative products in global history. Its overall revenues doubled in 2021 to reach $81.3 billion, and it’s slated to reach a record-breaking $98-$102 billion this year. “Corporations like Pfizer should never have been put in charge of a global vaccination rollout, because it was inevitable they would make life-and-death decisions based on what’s in the short-term interest of their shareholders,” writes Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. As previously mentioned, it’s super common for pharmaceutical companies to fund the research on their own products. Here’s why that’s scary. One 1999 meta-analysis showed that industry-funded research is eight times less likely to achieve unfavorable results compared to independent trials. In other words, if a pharmaceutical company wants to prove that a medication, supplement, vaccine, or device is safe and effective, they’ll find a way. With that in mind, I recently examined the 2020 study on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine to see if there were any conflicts of interest. Lo and behold, the lengthy attached disclosure form shows that of the 29 authors, 18 are employees of Pfizer and hold stock in the company, one received a research grant from Pfizer during the study, and two reported being paid “personal fees” by Pfizer. In another 2021 study on the Pfizer vaccine, seven of the 15 authors are employees of and hold stock in Pfizer. The other eight authors received financial support from Pfizer during the study. Photo credit: Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) via Unsplash As of the day I’m writing this, about 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 76% have gotten at least one dose. The FDA has repeatedly promised “full transparency” when it comes to these vaccines. Yet in December of 2021, the FDA asked for permission to wait 75 years before releasing information pertaining to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, including safety data, effectiveness data, and adverse reaction reports. That means no one would see this information until the year 2096 — conveniently, after many of us have departed this crazy world. To recap: the FDA only needed 10 weeks to review the 329,000 pages worth of data before approving the EUA for the vaccine — but apparently, they need three-quarters of a century to publicize it. In response to the FDA’s ludicrous request, PHMPT — a group of over 200 medical and public health experts from Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA, and other institutions — filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding that the FDA produce this data sooner. And their efforts paid off: U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman issued an order for the FDA to produce 12,000 pages by Jan. 31, and then at least 55,000 pages per month thereafter. In his statement to the FDA, Pittman quoted the late John F. Kennedy: “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” As for why the FDA wanted to keep this data hidden, the first batch of documentation revealed that there were more than 1,200 vaccine-related deaths in just the first 90 days after the Pfizer vaccine was introduced. Of 32 pregnancies with a known outcome, 28 resulted in fetal death. The CDC also recently unveiled data showing a total of 1,088,560 reports of adverse events from COVID vaccines were submitted between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 28, 2022. That data included 23,149 reports of deaths and 183,311 reports of serious injuries. There were 4,993 reported adverse events in pregnant women after getting vaccinated, including 1,597 reports of miscarriage or premature birth. A 2022 study published in JAMA, meanwhile, revealed that there have been more than 1,900 reported cases of myocarditis — or inflammation of the heart muscle — mostly in people 30 and under, within 7 days of getting the vaccine. In those cases, 96% of people were hospitalized. “It is understandable that the FDA does not want independent scientists to review the documents it relied upon to license Pfizer’s vaccine given that it is not as effective as the FDA originally claimed, does not prevent transmission, does not prevent against certain emerging variants, can cause serious heart inflammation in younger individuals, and has numerous other undisputed safety issues,” writes Aaron Siri, the attorney representing PHMPT in its lawsuit against the FDA. Siri told me in an email that his office phone has been ringing off the hook in recent months. “We are overwhelmed by inquiries from individuals calling about an injury from a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. By the way — it’s worth noting that adverse effects caused by COVID-19 vaccinations are still not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are protected under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which grants them total immunity from liability with their vaccines. And no matter what happens to you, you can’t sue the FDA for authorizing the EUA, or your employer for requiring you to get it, either. Billions of taxpayer dollars went to fund the research and development of these vaccines, and in Moderna’s case, licensing its vaccine was made possible entirely by public funds. But apparently, that still warrants citizens no insurance. Should something go wrong, you’re basically on your own. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine business model: government gives them billions, gives them immunity for any injuries or if doesn't work, promotes their products for free, and mandates their products. Sounds crazy? Yes, but it is our current reality. — Aaron Siri (@AaronSiriSG) February 2, 2022 The Hypocrisy of “Misinformation” I find it interesting that “misinformation” has become such a pervasive term lately, but more alarmingly, that it’s become an excuse for blatant censorship on social media and in journalism. It’s impossible not to wonder what’s driving this movement to control the narrative. In a world where we still very clearly don’t have all the answers, why shouldn’t we be open to exploring all the possibilities? And while we’re on the subject, what about all of the COVID-related untruths that have been spread by our leaders and officials? Why should they get a free pass? Photo credit: @upgradeur_life, www.instagram.com/upgradeur_life Fauci, President Biden, and the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky all promised us with total confidence the vaccine would prevent us from getting or spreading COVID, something we now know is a myth. (In fact, the CDC recently had to change its very definition of “vaccine ” to promise “protection” from a disease rather than “immunity”— an important distinction). At one point, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and former Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared a social media campaign with misleading messaging that the vaccine was “approved by the FDA” and “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through,” when in reality the FDA only authorized the vaccines under an EUA, and the vaccines were still undergoing clinical trials. While the NYS DOH eventually responded to pressures to remove these false claims, a few weeks later the Department posted on Facebook that “no serious side effects related to the vaccines have been reported,” when in actuality, roughly 16,000 reports of adverse events and over 3,000 reports of serious adverse events related to a COVID-19 vaccination had been reported in the first two months of use. One would think we’d hold the people in power to the same level of accountability — if not more — than an average citizen. So, in the interest of avoiding hypocrisy, should we “cancel” all these experts and leaders for their “misinformation,” too? Vaccine-hesitant people have been fired from their jobs, refused from restaurants, denied the right to travel and see their families, banned from social media channels, and blatantly shamed and villainized in the media. Some have even lost custody of their children. These people are frequently labeled “anti-vax,” which is misleading given that many (like the NBA’s Jonathan Isaac) have made it repeatedly clear they are not against all vaccines, but simply making a personal choice not to get this one. (As such, I’ll suggest switching to a more accurate label: “pro-choice.”) Fauci has repeatedly said federally mandating the vaccine would not be “appropriate” or “enforceable” and doing so would be “encroaching upon a person’s freedom to make their own choice.” So it’s remarkable that still, some individual employers and U.S. states, like my beloved Massachusetts, have taken it upon themselves to enforce some of these mandates, anyway. Meanwhile, a Feb. 7 bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicates that if you spread information that undermines public trust in a government institution (like the CDC or FDA), you could be considered a terrorist. In case you were wondering about the current state of free speech. The definition of institutional oppression is “the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.” It is defined as occurring when established laws and practices “systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.” Sound familiar? As you continue to watch the persecution of the unvaccinated unfold, remember this. Historically, when society has oppressed a particular group of people whether due to their gender, race, social class, religious beliefs, or sexuality, it’s always been because they pose some kind of threat to the status quo. The same is true for today’s unvaccinated. Since we know the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of COVID, however, this much is clear: the unvaccinated don’t pose a threat to the health and safety of their fellow citizens — but rather, to the bottom line of powerful pharmaceutical giants and the many global organizations they finance. And with more than $100 billion on the line in 2021 alone, I can understand the motivation to silence them. The unvaccinated have been called selfish. Stupid. Fauci has said it’s “almost inexplicable” that they are still resisting. But is it? What if these people aren’t crazy or uncaring, but rather have — unsurprisingly so — lost their faith in the agencies that are supposed to protect them? Can you blame them? Citizens are being bullied into getting a vaccine that was created, evaluated, and authorized in under a year, with no access to the bulk of the safety data for said vaccine, and no rights whatsoever to pursue legal action if they experience adverse effects from it. What these people need right now is to know they can depend on their fellow citizens to respect their choices, not fuel the segregation by launching a full-fledged witch hunt. Instead, for some inexplicable reason I imagine stems from fear, many continue rallying around big pharma rather than each other. A 2022 Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports survey of Democratic voters found that 59% of respondents support a government policy requiring unvaccinated individuals to remain confined in their home at all times, 55% support handing a fine to anyone who won’t get the vaccine, and 48% think the government should flat out imprison people who publicly question the efficacy of the vaccines on social media, TV, or online in digital publications. Even Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up. Photo credit: DJ Paine on Unsplash Let me be very clear. While there are a lot of bad actors out there — there are also a lot of well-meaning people in the science and medical industries, too. I’m lucky enough to know some of them. There are doctors who fend off pharma reps’ influence and take an extremely cautious approach to prescribing. Medical journal authors who fiercely pursue transparency and truth — as is evident in “The Influence of Money on Medical Science,” a report by the first female editor of JAMA. Pharmacists, like Dan Schneider, who refuse to fill prescriptions they deem risky or irresponsible. Whistleblowers, like Graham and Jackson, who tenaciously call attention to safety issues for pharma products in the approval pipeline. And I’m certain there are many people in the pharmaceutical industry, like Panara and my grandfather, who pursued this field with the goal of helping others, not just earning a six- or seven-figure salary. We need more of these people. Sadly, it seems they are outliers who exist in a corrupt, deep-rooted system of quid-pro-quo relationships. They can only do so much. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should get the vaccine or booster doses. What you put in your body is not for me — or anyone else — to decide. It’s not a simple choice, but rather one that may depend on your physical condition, medical history, age, religious beliefs, and level of risk tolerance. My grandfather passed away in 2008, and lately, I find myself missing him more than ever, wishing I could talk to him about the pandemic and hear what he makes of all this madness. I don’t really know how he’d feel about the COVID vaccine, or whether he would have gotten it or encouraged me to. What I do know is that he’d listen to my concerns, and he’d carefully consider them. He would remind me my feelings are valid. His eyes would light up and he’d grin with amusement as I fervidly expressed my frustration. He’d tell me to keep pushing forward, digging deeper, asking questions. In his endearing Bronx accent, he used to always say: “go get ‘em, kid.” If I stop typing for a moment and listen hard enough, I can almost hear him saying it now. People keep saying “trust the science.” But when trust is broken, it must be earned back. And as long as our legislative system, public health agencies, physicians, and research journals keep accepting pharmaceutical money (with strings attached) — and our justice system keeps letting these companies off the hook when their negligence causes harm, there’s no reason for big pharma to change. They’re holding the bag, and money is power. I have a dream that one day, we’ll live in a world where we are armed with all the thorough, unbiased data necessary to make informed decisions about our health. Alas, we’re not even close. What that means is that it’s up to you to educate yourself as much as possible, and remain ever-vigilant in evaluating information before forming an opinion. You can start by reading clinical trials yourself, rather than relying on the media to translate them for you. Scroll to the bottom of every single study to the “conflicts of interest” section and find out who funded it. Look at how many subjects were involved. Confirm whether or not blinding was used to eliminate bias. You may also choose to follow Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s rule whenever possible: that means avoiding a new drug until five years after an FDA approval (not an EUA, an actual approval) — when there’s enough data on the long-term safety and effectiveness to establish that the benefits outweigh the risks. When it comes to the news, you can seek out independent, nonprofit outlets, which are less likely to be biased due to pharma funding. And most importantly, when it appears an organization is making concerted efforts to conceal information from you — like the FDA recently did with the COVID vaccine — it’s time to ask yourself: why? What are they trying to hide? In the 2019 film “Dark Waters” — which is based on the true story of one of the greatest corporate cover-ups in American history — Mark Ruffalo as attorney Rob Bilott says: “The system is rigged. They want us to think it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else. Not the companies. Not the scientists. Not the government. Us.” Words to live by. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

"Parents Are Not Going To Put Up With This Nonsense," Moms For Liberty Vows To Boycott Disney

"Parents Are Not Going To Put Up With This Nonsense," Moms For Liberty Vows To Boycott Disney By Patricia Tolson of The Epoch Times As the battle between The Walt Disney Co. and Florida rages on, the co-founders of Moms for Liberty are calling for a boycott, saying “Disney has severely underestimated Florida parents.” On March 28, 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into law. House Bill 1557, inaccurately branded by liberal opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibits Florida educators from teaching anything about sexual orientation or gender identity to children in Kindergarten through third grade. The law goes further, enabling parents to sue if they believe schools or instructors have violated the law. A week prior, after facing pressure from LGBTQ communities and staff for his silence, Disney CEO Bob Chapek issued a statement apologizing for not being a “stronger ally” to them, calling the bill “yet another challenge to basic human rights.” Chapek then announced Disney would immediately halt all political donations in Florida. In a March 28 statement, Disney’s corporate office said its new goal was “for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts,” and vowed to support organizations working to make such a thing happen. Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice told Fox News Digital in a March 30 interview she found that to be “striking language” coming from a company with a target audience of children. “Parents are not going to put up with this nonsense,” Justice told The Epoch Times. “We are watching woke corporations chip away at our parental rights. So we’re not just going to stand out on the street with our ‘Boycott Disney’ signs. We’re going to do what we need to do as parents across the country and make sure we spend our money with companies that align with our values, and sexualizing children is not a value we hold. We do not believe that is an appropriate thing for any adult to be doing.” Tina Descovich, the group’s other co-founder, said Moms for Liberty’s Florida chapters worked hard for months in support of the Parental Rights in Education bill. “We are in a war and our moms are going to do what they’re going to do when it comes to organizations and businesses that support the grooming of children,” Descovich told The Epoch Times. “We brought 200 moms to Tallahassee to rally in support of this bill so parents can reclaim their rights in public education in the state of Florida. The bill has now been signed and we think it’s unacceptable that an organization like Disney wants to get involved with destroying the work we’ve been doing.” But Descovich insists their war isn’t against Disney. “Our war is for the security and safety of our children,” she said, “so our strategy is the same as it was when we launched our organization in January of last year and that’s to empower moms and dads and families to stand up for parental rights at all levels of government.” According to Justice, not only is Moms for Liberty organizing to boycott Disney to fight back against leftist ideology, they plan to secure every school board position they can in the Sunshine State to keep the ideology out of Florida’s schools. Considering their pool of more than 80,000 members in 181 chapters in 34 states across the country, these moms could prove to be a formidable financial and political foe for “the happiest place on earth.” “We just added Hawaii,” Justice said, “and we’re not leaving any of the states behind. We’re coming for California. We hear from parents in California all the time who are tired of the woke politics. We are ‘The United States of America’ and American parents are paying attention. We invited Disney into our homes and these corporations are turning their backs on us and our children. We believe the innocence of children is sacred and adults must work to protect that.” Tiffany Justice (L) and Tina Descovich, co-founders of Moms for Liberty. Courtesy of Tiffany Justice In response to Disney’s threats, Florida state Rep. Joe Harding, the Republican lawmaker who sponsored the bill, announced he is returning the $3,126 he had received in political donations associated with Disney. Other Florida lawmakers followed suit. As DeSantis wrapped up a March 30 press conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, he hinted that state lawmakers might repeal the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which provides Disney with what DeSantis called many “special privileges.” “We have some amazing elected leaders in Florida, and they are standing up for parents and for kids,” Justice said. “I am incredibly thankful. America needs strong, elected leaders. We don’t need followers who beg at the feet of woke corporations. If you’re an elected official and you’re accepting money from Disney, you are selling out parents.” To honor Florida’s governor for his dedication in standing up for families and children, Descovich said Moms for Liberty created a hashtag referring to DeSantis as #TheParentsGovernor long before the Disney battle began. “I think Disney has severely underestimated Florida parents because they live in a California bubble, not in reality,” Justice insisted. “But it’s not surprising to me that a company that plays make-believe for a living would be out of touch with the average American parent.” It’s a sentiment shared wholeheartedly by Florida Republican state Rep. Spencer Roach. “Here in Florida, the two issues that have really galvanized voters and will continue to resonate all the way to 2024 are the woke corporations and woke school boards,” Roach told The Epoch Times. “I think when we’re looking at both of these issues, the fundamental issue is the same.” According to Roach, the question that keeps arising is one of instilling values. “Who is responsible with inculcating values systems in children? Should it be government, acting through these woke school boards and corporations, or should it be parents?” he asked rhetorically. “What we’re coming down with every time is ‘parents.’ Parents want to ensure that they are the ones having these conversations with their children and teaching their children the values they hold dear. Not the government and not these corporations. “We can’t overstate that that is such a fundamental, critical issue that school boards are missing. Terry McAuliffe missed it in Virginia and now Bob Chapek of Disney. That’s the theme they keep missing. These government actors, school boards, and corporate CEOs have awakened a sleeping giant of an interest group here in the United States called ‘parents.’ What’s more about Florida is Bob Chapek doesn’t understand a majority of Republicans and Democrats in Florida support the ‘Parents Rights in Education’ law.” Descovich included Roach in a list of Florida leaders who have stood in defense of parental rights in Florida. “We have some great leaders in the state of Florida who really recognize the role of parents and families and really respect that role and are willing to stand up and fight for it,” Descovich said, citing Roach, Harding—who sponsored House Bill 1557—and Rep. Erin Grall, who sponsored the Parents’ Bill of Rights. “We have some real champions in Florida for parental rights and we are thankful that they are in the great state of Florida,” Descovich said. On June 9, 2021, The Epoch Times reported that Florida was the No. 1 relocation destination for Americans in 2020. New York and California, both heavily Democratic, took first and second place in the contest for which states had the most people choosing to leave. In 2021, Florida took second place as the most popular relocation state behind Texas. In September 2021, satirical news site The Babylon Bee named California Gov. Gavin Newsom the “U-Haul Salesperson of the Year.” On March 12, Newsom told Disney through social media that “the door is open to bring those jobs back to California—the state that actually represents the values of your workers.” DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw noted with a laughing emoji how Newsom “had kept Disneyland closed for 13 months straight.” On April 1, The Epoch Times reported that Florida had reached a historic milestone. Republicans overtook Democrats in registered voters by a margin of 100,000. According to Justice, “we’re just getting started.” In the meantime, asked what advice she would offer to parents who want to let Disney know how they feel, Justice suggested they “find another place to vacation this summer.” Tyler Durden Thu, 04/07/2022 - 17:25.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytApr 7th, 2022

Putin"s Ukraine playbook is familiar — he used it in Syria

Putin's playbook in Syria and now in Ukraine includes: bombing hospitals, a disinformation campaign, and exploiting fear of a deadlier outcome. Mariana Vishegirskaya stands outside a maternity hospital that was damaged by Russian shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022. Vishegirskaya survived the shelling and later gave birth to a girl in another hospital in Mariupol.Mstyslav Chernov/AP Photo Putin perfected his Ukraine playbook during his years-long bombardment of Syrian civilians.  It includes bombing hospitals, a disinformation campaign, and exploiting fear of a deadlier outcome.  Syrian activists, speaking from experience, have warned Ukrainians not to share hospital locations. Over a few weeks in the fall of 2016, Russia and its allies bombed Al-Sakhour Hospital in Aleppo, Syria at least four times. After an international outcry, a Russian general held a press conference to insist that photos, videos, and eyewitness statements documenting air strikes by the Russian military were "plain forgeries." He provided his own satellite photos of the area, which he offered as proof that the destroyed hospital was in fact relatively unscathed.The world is now watching a similar strategy play out in Ukraine. On March 9, Russian warplanes bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine that has been besieged by Russian forces for more than two weeks. The airstrike initially killed at least three people, and injured 17 patients and staff. A pregnant woman who was carried out of the hospital on a stretcher, in a scene of post-apocalyptic devastation captured by an Associated Press photographer that went viral, died a few days later, along with her child. The Russian defense ministry denied bombing the hospital, and accused Ukraine of staging the attack to garner international sympathy.This is the playbook that Russia has used since sending troops to Syria in the fall of 2015 to prop up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad:Bombing hospitals and other civilian infrastructure as a form of collective punishment — and then claiming these were "false flag" operations orchestrated by the other side. Launching a disinformation campaign to spread confusion and undermine independent reporting and first-hand accounts.  Claiming that Western powers getting in your way could lead to a far deadlier outcome — like the spread of ISIS, in Syria, or the threat of a European-wide (possibly nuclear) war in the case of Ukraine. Now, we're seeing President Vladimir Putin deploy these tactics again in Ukraine, although this time he's been met with greater resistance, and skepticism. Unlike Syria, Russia's military onslaught in Ukraine has outraged much of the world and led the European Union and the United States to impose severe sanctions on Russia within days of the invasion.Top, a photo from March 14, 2022 shows a man near an apartment building hit by a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine. Below, a photo from November 16, 2016 of a destroyed building after airstrikes in Aleppo, Syria.Photo by Emin Sansar and Jawad al Rifai/Anadolu Agency / Getty ImagesUnlike Syria, Russia's military onslaught in Ukraine has outraged much of the world and led the European Union and the United States to impose severe sanctions on Russia within days of the invasion. Putin also underestimated Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has  effectively used digital tools to win the information war and plead for international support and weapons. Zelensky, a former TV star turned president, is seemingly everywhere in his green t-shirt and half-zipped fleece: imploring Congress for more advanced weapons over Zoom; shooting selfie videos on the streets of Kyiv; and even taunting Putin into meeting face-to-face."Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 meters," Zelensky said on March 3, taking a jab at Putin's tendency to meet with foreign leaders at the end of an extremely long table. "I don't bite. What are you afraid of?"Zelensky is creating a new political style, as an everyday hero standing up to a far more powerful bully. That David-versus-Goliath narrative resonates in the West. But in Syria, Putin and Assad did not have to deal with anyone like Zelensky, who could galvanize international support.Civilian misery as a tactic of warPopular protests that swept the Arab world in late 2010, and became known as the "Arab Spring," reached Syria in March 2011. Assad, a London-educated ophthalmologist who inherited power from his father, watched the initial response to protests in Tunisia and Egypt, and concluded that those countries' rulers appeared weak by not cracking down forcefully. When his own people revolted, Assad decided to crush the uprising. At first, he relied on his own military and security forces, and the support of two longtime allies: Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. People holding pictures of victims of the airstrikes and shelling by Syrian government forces in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria, gather during a rally outside the Russian Consulate in Istanbul, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. The group, including prominent Syrian opposition figures, chanted Syrian songs and slogans denouncing a Syrian government forces' bombing campaign that has targeted hospitals, apartment blocks and other civilian sites.Lefteris Pitarakis/AP PhotoBut Assad kept losing ground to rebels and the Syrian conflict soon turned into a proxy war that involved regional and world powers, including Russia and Iran — which supported Assad — and the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, which sent weapons and money to rebel groups trying to topple Assad's regime. (By 2015, the CIA was funneling up to $1 billion a year in anti-tank missiles, light arms, and other weapons to Syrian rebel groups.)In September 2015, Putin deployed the Russian air force and special forces troops to help Assad, who had lost control of major parts of Syria. Putin's military used overwhelming air power and artillery: it assaulted densely populated areas and destroyed infrastructure to make life as miserable as possible for civilians. Russian warplanes bombed hospitals, schools, electrical and water plants, and bakeries where civilians were lined up to get bread. The Syrian Network for Human Rights found that more than 170 bakeries were bombed during 10 years of war — the vast majority by Syrian and Russian forces trying to create a food crisis as they recaptured rebel-held areas. The Russian military also helped Syrian troops lay siege to urban populations, blocking access to food and medicine. The brutal sieges of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, and suburbs of the capital, Damascus, combined with punishing air raids and artillery bombardment, forced tens of thousands of people to surrender and leave their homes.In December 2016, with intensive Russian air strikes and Iranian ground support, Assad recaptured the rebel-held sections of Aleppo. It marked a turning point for his regime's survival. Human rights groups documented the Russian-Syrian assault on Aleppo and concluded that it amounted to war crimes. "Airstrikes often appeared to be recklessly indiscriminate, deliberately targeted at least one medical facility, and included the use of indiscriminate weapons such as cluster munitions and incendiary weapons," Human Rights Watch concluded after Assad regained full control of Aleppo.Those reports eerily echo the Russian military's current tactics in Ukraine. Human rights groups, Western leaders and United Nations officials all say that Russia has committed war crimes by bombing hospitals, schools, nurseries, bread lines, and residential buildings in multiple Ukrainian cities. There's growing evidence that Russia is targeting civilians who are trying to escape, using cluster bombs and thermobaric rockets, which suck up oxygen to create massive explosions. President Joe Biden called Putin a "war criminal" on March 16, the day that Zelensky spoke to Congress, after top US officials avoided using the term for weeks.A man walks through rubble in Ariha, Syria, on Jan. 30, 2020. The attack, believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes backing a Syrian government offensive, also put a local hospital out of service, opposition activists and a rescue service said.Ghaith Alsayed/AP PhotoIn Syria, the Assad regime and Russian forces especially targeted hospitals as a way to pressure rebels and drive civilians out of population centers. Physicians for Human Rights, an independent monitoring group, has documented more than 600 attacks on at least 350 separate health facilities from March 2011 through February 2022. (The attacks led to the killing of 942 medical workers.) The group found that 90 percent of these attacks were committed by the Syrian regime and its allies—and that the highest number of attacks took place in 2015 and 2016, at the height of Russia's intervention. Intentionally bombing hospitals is a war crime under international law.In 2019, there was another spate of attacks on hospitals in the rebel-held Idlib Province, one of the last territories that is not under the Syrian regime's control. A New York Times investigation found that the Russian air force had bombed four hospitals during a 12-hour period in May 2019. It later turned out that Russian and Syrian forces were bombing hospitals and clinics that had shared their GPS coordinates through a UN list meant to prevent such attacks.The attacks on hospitals have been so brazen that Syrian activists are now warning Ukrainians not to share GPS locations of medical facilities with the UN. "In Syria the Russians used that information to target hospitals," Raed Al Saleh, head of the White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer civil defense group, wrote in a message this week to mark the 11th anniversary of the Syrian uprising. "Ukrainians should also establish small medical and civil defense outposts in secret locations around the city to take the pressure off larger hospitals and mitigate the risk of targeting first responders."Your lying eyes All the while, Russia also used disinformation campaigns, especially on social media, to claim that its targeting of Syria's hospitals, bakeries and residential buildings were fabrications — waving away evidence that Syria and Russian troops carried out the vast majority of these attacks on civilian infrastructure.The White Helmets, which rescued thousands of civilians from the aftermath of Russian and Syrian air strikes in opposition-held territory, were victims of one of the most pernicious disinformation campaigns organized by Russia during the Syrian war. The campaign portrayed the group, which received Western funding, as terrorists linked to Al Qaeda or part of a CIA conspiracy. In 2018, Bellingcat, a British-based research group, documented more than 20 bogus accusations that the White Helmets had been involved in chemical attacks on Syrian soil.Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 9, 2022.Evgeniy Maloletka/APRussia's sophisticated disinformation campaigns in Syria often warned of "false flag" chemical attacks by rebels that would provoke the West to confront the Assad regime. These campaigns served two purposes, which are being repeated in Ukraine: to muddy the waters of which side is responsible for war crimes and to sow doubt in worldwide public opinion. (Russia also managed to cast doubt on the Syrian regime's repeated use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs against civilians.)So far, Russia is having less success in its disinformation warfare in Ukraine, but that could change as the war grinds on. When Putin first announced his invasion on February 24, he invoked World War II and claimed he would "denazify" Ukraine. Putin tried to conflate Ukrainian nationalism with fascism, and to connect Zelensky's government with extremist and neo-Nazi groups. But the strategy quickly backfired as many in the West dismissed the comparison and historians signed a letter denouncing Russia's "cynical abuse of the term genocide, the memory of World War II and the Holocaust, and the equation of the Ukrainian state with the Nazi regime to justify its unprovoked aggression." Many have also pointed out that Zelensky is Jewish and lost several relatives in the Holocaust.Things could get worse Putin's clumsy attempt to portray his invasion of Ukraine as a campaign to fight extremism also has its roots in the Syria war. There, Putin played off the West's fears of terrorism and a flood of refugees from a predominately Muslim country.A Russian military police officer stands guard at the border crossing point of Jdedeh Yabous, Syria, in 2018.Sergei Grits/AP PhotoFor the most part, Western powers stood by as the carnage in Syria unfolded. Europe and the United States were mainly worried about the rise of ISIS, which had swept through Syria and Iraq in 2014. Putin and Assad convinced the West that they would help contain the militants and keep them from reaching the heart of Europe. The two strongmen succeeded in portraying themselves as the lesser evil — compared to ISIS and other jihadists affiliated with Al-Qaeda — even as the Syrian and Russian militaries were causing more death and destruction than the militants. By the time Donald Trump took office in January 2017, Washington shifted its focus to fighting ISIS rather than ousting the Syrian regime. Russia and its allies, meanwhile, were mainly targeting rebel factions opposed to Assad, rather than trying to defeat ISIS.In Syria, and now in Ukraine, Putin seems to have calculated that the West would protest, but it would not respond to his military intervention with force. In Ukraine, he has constantly reminded the United States and Europe that intervention carries the risk of instigating a third World War or a nuclear crisis. Days after his troops began marching into Ukraine, Putin declared he had put Russia's nuclear arsenal into "special combat readiness," evoking memories of the Cold War. Biden decided not to match the move.Eight years into Russia's intervention in Syria, Putin has emerged emboldened. He figured he could attack, besiege, and starve civilians — and lie about it with impunity, while convincing Western adversaries that a worse scenario was being averted. That strategy has worked for him in Syria. And he's already using the old playbook in Ukraine on an even larger scale. Mohamad Bazzi (@BazziNYU) is a journalism professor and director of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University. He is a non-resident fellow at Democracy for the Arab World Now, and the former Middle East bureau chief at Newsday.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 18th, 2022

Shellenberger: Why We Will Save California (And Why Newsom Doesn"t Care)

Shellenberger: Why We Will Save California (And Why Newsom Doesn't Care) Authored by Michael Shellenberger via Substack, Like a lot of Californians, I have a full and happy life. My wife and I own a home in the Berkeley Hills from which we enjoy watching the fog roll underneath the Golden Gate bridge, and blanket the bay. Our children are healthy and happy. We enjoy a safe and comfortable living as researchers and writers, seemingly far from the chaos and suffering in California’s downtowns. But over the last few years, the rising chaos and suffering have increasingly troubled me. In 2018 I ran for governor to make the case for abundant housing to address homelessness. In 2019, I called for a State of Emergency on homelessness and mandatory psychiatric care or rehab for addicts and the mentally ill who break the law.  And in 2021, I co-founded a statewide coalition with parents of homeless drug addicts, parents of children killed by fentanyl, and recovering addicts, to advocate for a statewide psychiatric and addiction care system (“Cal-Psych”), a crackdown on open air and online drug markets, and a change from the state’s de facto “camp anywhere” policy to a ban on illegal camping. I thought we were making progress. In September, I button-holed Governor Gavin Newsom in San Francisco, and told him about Cal-Psych, explaining that it was a way to centralize psychiatric and addiction care. He told me, “I look forward to talking more about it!” When Joe Rogan asked me in October if I thought Newsom cared, I defended the governor, saying that I thought he did. But Newsom has failed to increase housing, refused to fight for universal health care, and has rejected the idea of a statewide psychiatric and addiction care system, choosing instead to double down on the same policies that created the homelessness crisis in the first place Today, Gov. @GavinNewsom will characterize his proposal for dealing with mentally ill homeless as "unprecedented" In truth, Newsom is proposing to waste more money on a system that HIS MOST SENIOR ADVISOR SAYS CAN'T WORK pic.twitter.com/VK8evvp2fE — Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) March 8, 2022 As a result, chaos and suffering are increasing nearly everywhere in California, even in small towns. Half of all fires in California’s cities are in homeless encampments, even though the unsheltered homeless are less than 0.005 percent of the state’s population. Firefighters and EMTs revive, at great cost, fentanyl addicts who overdose and nearly die — and then put the poor souls right back on the street again. And violent crime is rising because the police are understaffed and demoralized. California spends much more than other states on homelessness and mental illness and yet has worse outcomes. Homelessness increased 31 percent in California, over the last decade, while it declined 18 percent in the rest of the country. Recently, a drug-addicted 16-year-old girl, the age of my daughter, was allegedly raped, repeatedly, before overdosing on fentanyl, in an open drug scene in downtown San Francisco. Why won’t Governor Gavin Newsom take action to shut down the open drug scenes, and restore order? And what must be done?  Why Newsom Doesn’t Care In October, HarperCollins published San Fransicko, which assembles a significant body of evidence to show that what we call “homelessness” results primarily from untreated mental illness and addiction, not poverty and high rents. That book, my reporting on Substack, and my video interviews, helped change the national conversation. In mid-December of last year, San Francisco Mayor London Breed called for a crackdown on open air drug dealing and even “tough love.” Shortly after, I was invited to address the city’s Commonwealth Club.  But a few days before my Commonwealth Club talk I discovered, and was the first to report, that Mayor London Breed had secretly and illegally created a supervised fentanyl and meth use site in United Nations Plaza in downtown San Francisco. The site was part of a new, so-called “Linkage Center,” the centerpiece of the mayor’s plan to supposedly direct homeless addicts to rehab, but the site has only worsened open air drug use, drug dealing, and violent crime, and sent just a handful of people to rehab. The bottom line is that San Francisco city government has put the business interests of violent drug dealers above the needs of vulnerable 16 year-old homeless female drug addicts. When cities can no longer properly govern themselves, it is the role of the governor to intervene, but instead of using his State of the State address last week to lay out a vision for California to realize its incredible potential, Newsom was dehumanizing, disrespectful, and dishonest, and not just on the issue of homelessness. At a time when just nine percent of African American students, and 12 percent of Latino students in Los Angeles public schools are proficient in eighth-grade math, Newsom began by patronizingly praising his appointees for their racial identies, sexual preferences, and immigration status, not their achievements.  In his speech, the governor talked tough on forest fires — even though he cut the budget for fighting them, and the area treated for fire prevention declined by half, during his time in office. Newsom took credit for job growth even though California has a 6.5 percent unemployment rate, which is three percentage points higher than the national average, and three times higher than other states. We Californians have the highest income tax, highest gasoline tax, and highest sales tax in the United States, and yet suffer blackouts and abysmal public services. California’s residential electricity prices grew three times faster than they did in the rest of the U.S., in 2021. Last summer Newsom issued emergency rules allowing for the burning of dirty diesel fuel to prevent blackouts for 2.5 million people, and yet is moving full-speed ahead with plans to shut down Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which provides reliable, pollution-free power for three million Californians, and whose closure could result in catastrophic blackouts. In other words, Newsom gave the speech a presidential candidate would make to Democratic primary voters in Iowa — not the speech a governor who cared about California would make. Naturally, Newsom made no mention of the two issues he had campaigned on in 2018, universal health care and adding 500,000 new housing units a year. It’s easy to see why. Health care legislation recently failed due to his lack of care, courage, and clarity. And new annual housing construction has been just one-fifth of what he promised, for the same reasons. Nor did Newsom discuss the shocking failure of California’s public schools. We spend more per capita than most other states and yet under half of our public school students are proficient in reading while just one-third are proficient in math. Those are the statistics of a failed state, and a failing civilization. Newsom refuses to do what must be done because that requires standing up to the interest groups he believes he needs to become president. “He wants to be on the biggest stage,” confessed a former Newsom aide to The Los Angeles Times. “The obvious what-next for a governor of California is president of the United States.” The governor’s political ambitions stand in stark contrast to the gritty realities on the street. While Newsom and his aides were pitching to reporters last week that his State of the State speech would be “upbeat,” the parents of the 16 year-old girl killed by fentanyl dealers were quietly grieving her death. Courage To Care “We have got to find the courage to care for California.” @ShellenbergerMD on what his message will be to voters as he hits the campaign trail to @NikkiLaurenzo on #InsideCAPolitics pic.twitter.com/nwyIUGzb2Q— Inside California Politics (@CAinsider) March 13, 2022 The suffering and chaos resulting from California’s vacuum of leadership led me to once again decide to run for governor. I am heartbroken at the humanitarian disaster in the streets, angry that the politicians keep making things worse, and inspired by our vision for saving California. It is fair to say that I am an underdog. Newsom defeated last year’s recall election by an astonishing margin: 62 - 38 percent. He has $25 million in the bank. And he is gifted at dividing Californians, and demonizing his opponents, in ways that distract from his failures. But I am not a longshot. I would not have decided to run again if I didn’t feel we could come in second place in the open primary election on June 7, proceed to the November 8 general election, and defeat Newsom. By then, I will have won a mandate to implement Cal-Psych and finally solve the homeless crisis which Newsom has, over the last 20 years, made worse.  Newsom and the interest groups that control him will no doubt attempt to demonize me with liberal voters, but I have long supported LGBTQ rights, the right of women to make their own decision on abortion, strong gun safety laws, universal health care, decriminalized marijuana and psychedelics for medical and spiritual purposes, and strong action on climate change, alongside more funding for the police, the continued operation of our last nuclear plant, and mandatory treatment of addicts and the untreated mentally ill homeless as an alternative to jail or prison when they break the law. Under my leadership, California will deal with the homeless drug addiction and mental illness crisis in a humane and efficient way and give us the momentum to build the societal consensus we need to achieve changes on other, long-delayed reforms around energy, water, and the environment, and schools, housing, and infrastructure.  My parents were teachers and my mother a representative of the teachers union. As governor I will work with all parties, including interest groups like the teachers union. But I will not be hostage to them. I will fight for the higher-quality, better scheduled, and more personalized education system our children need. That will require that parents have more choices. But it will also require consequences for the schools that are failing to educate our children I believe that most Californians are sick and tired of being divided, whether by Left and Right, or by race and sex, and will support an agenda that brings us together. We need law and order, but we also need psychiatric care. We need more housing, but we also need to protect our quality of life. We need cheap and reliable energy, but we also need to make progress on climate change. I am a lifelong Democrat but changed my party affiliation to “No Party Preference” last year out of disgust with both parties. Initial polling show our agenda draws equal numbers of independents, Democrats, and Republicans. As such, not only can not only win, we can create the governing majority California needs. None of this will be easy and in fact will be hard. I expect my name to be dragged through the mud, and I don’t expect it to be pleasant. But it’s hard things, not soft ones, that bring out our best, as individuals as as movements. And I am heartened by the overwhelming response from my friends and supporters to my announcement. My family and I will be fine, no matter what happens. Indeed, our lives will be more comfortable if we lose than if we win. But the lives of the people suffering around us won’t be fine no matter what. Many more people on the street will die, often in gruesome fashion, unnecessarily. In the end, our lives are not our own. All of us, not just Helen, our movement, and me, are being called to serve. With this announcement, we are answering the call. We hope you will, too.  Tyler Durden Mon, 03/14/2022 - 20:20.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMar 14th, 2022

Even With "Defund The Police" Discredited, Some Schools May Still Shun The Police

Even With 'Defund The Police' Discredited, Some Schools May Still Shun The Police Authored by Vince Bielski via RealClearInvestigations (emphasis ours), Des Moines this week suffered its first fatal school shooting – reigniting a controversy in the city after the district removed police officers from its schools last year. Police say a group of teenagers in vehicles outside Des Moines' East High School fired multiple rounds onto school property on Monday, killing a 15-year-old boy and critically wounding two female students who were bystanders. Six teenagers, some of them current Des Moines students, have been charged with first-degree murder. The deadly drive-by shooting now hovers over the decision by Des Moines officials, along with about 30 districts across the country, to exile cops from schools. These moves were part of the "defund the police" movement that erupted after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. It’s a movement now reeling in the face of violent crime surging nationwide, punctuated by President Biden’s State of the Union vow last week to “fund the police.” But in schools, at least, a decision to bring back cops -- or “school resource officers,” as they are called -- isn’t a slam dunk in places where students of color had been arrested at higher rates than whites. Des Moines (population: 214,000) provides a case in point. So far its district, half of whose students are black or Latino, has not followed schools from Maryland to California heeding pleas to restore the SROs. Instead, Iowa’s capital city is rolling out a new community-engagement safety plan to replace the cops. And that infuriates parents alarmed by school mayhem long before Floyd’s death moved racial justice to the front burner -- parents like Lindsay LaGrange. The Des Moines mom reached her breaking point in November after a student in her son’s middle school was found with an airsoft pellet gun on campus. “My son turned in this boy to the front office, and then later this boy beats up my son after school,” she said. “Almost every day he said there’s another fight at school. The kids are not safe.” Police investigating after Monday's fatal shooting outside Des Moines' East High School. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP) The Policing of America’s Schools Des Moines joined the wave of districts that hired SROs after the rash of school shootings in the 1990s, a decade capped by the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. The killing of Sandy Hook elementary school children in Connecticut in 2012 spurred more districts to follow suit. As many as 25,000 law enforcement officers are working today in all types of schools, from rural to suburban to urban, said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). In Des Moines, SRO was a coveted job. Cops went through a competitive hiring process, which vetted them for the patience and savvy to communicate with teenagers, said Sergeant Paul Parizek of the Des Moines Police Department. Not every officer was a good fit. Those tapped went through training at NASRO, a crash course in seeing the world through the eyes of a teenager. Des Moines started its SRO program about two decades ago. The district would eventually hire 10 SROs and a supervisor – one cop for each high school and four that were shared by the middle schools. Seventy percent of SROs were white men and women. Black men made up 30%. Parizek said the public has harbored misconceptions about the approach. SROs weren’t placed in schools to jack up kids with a dime bag. Although an average of 287 Des Moines students were arrested annually in the years before the pandemic, the goal was prevention: to build relationships with students to deter them from trouble and to hear chatter about what’s going down in the schools. Who’s going to fight? Who has a gun? “The guns we recovered in 2019, we recovered them before they made it inside the school door,” Parizek said. “And this was because of the relationships that SROs had with students who provided them with information.” School resource officer Deb Vanvelzen: “Sometimes kids talked to me to keep their friends safe.” A Cop’s Story at Lincoln High Officer Deb Vanvelzen fit the SRO mold. She was a school teacher with a passion for working with students before becoming a cop and then an SRO from 2005 to 2019, mostly at Lincoln High. In addition to performing typical police duties, such as breaking up fights and disposing of drugs, Vanvelzen aimed to be part of the Lincoln community. She advised teachers on how to keep classrooms safe. She spoke with parents about how to address problems with their children. She gave students lunch money and clothing her own kids outgrew. A former high school athlete, the white cop played hoops in the gym (and in uniform) with students and ate lunch in the cafeteria with kids of color to break the ice. They talked about clothing styles. For a few years she sent every student a birthday card. At graduation, Vanvelzen shook everyone’s hand. The payoff? “Once the students saw me as trustworthy, they started talking to me and I found out things before they happened and exploded,” she said. “Sometimes kids talked to me to keep their friends safe.” A few years ago, a Lincoln student approached Vanvelzen with a tip about a weapon. The day before, a teen from a different school involved in a fight across the street from Lincoln had a gun. Vanzelzen then relayed the tip to the SRO at that student’s school. “So that SRO sees the kid in the hallway, gets him into his office, and lo and behold, he still has the gun,” she said. Portilda Sayon, a junior at Lincoln, said some students felt safer because of the SROs. Sayon got to know Dusty Chapline, Vanvelzen’s replacement, after Sayon had a verbal spat with other girls. The two talked a lot about Sayon’s emotional problems and issues at home. “Chappie helped me tremendously,” Sayon said.    Some students, however, never took to the SROs. “They don’t like cops because they had a bad experience with them before,” Sayon said. Vanvelzen said that she, in collaboration with the Lincoln staff, “absolutely” made the school safer. But she notes the challenge in assessing the effectiveness of SROs. There’s no way to count the number of incidents that did not happen because of her presence at Lincoln. The statistics are hard to interpret: there were 1,652 reported acts of physical aggression in the Des Moines middle and high schools in fiscal 2019. That number was fairly steady in the few years before SROs were removed. So perhaps the cops were keeping a lid on violence but not significantly reducing it. When officials examined the data, they couldn’t come to a definitive conclusion about SROs. “That’s the essential question, but we really couldn’t answer it with confidence that SROs were or weren’t making schools safer,” said Jake Troja, the district director of school climate transformation. How Two Students Expelled the SROs The campaign to remove the police was led by two Des Moines students at East High School, Endi Montalvo-Martinez and Lyric Sellers. While researching racial equity for a leadership class, Montalvo-Martinez, then a junior, learned about the controversy surrounding SROs in other cities. It meshed with the experience of some of his friends who believed racism had led SROs to stop them and search their bags.   So Montalvo-Martinez and Sellers, then a sophomore, wrote a sweeping anti-racist proposal in early 2020 to compel the district to remove the police, redesign its Eurocentric curriculum and hire more teachers of color. Jake Troja, school official: Statistics didn't answer whether "SROs were or weren’t making schools safer.”  When the duo met with Superintendent Thomas Ahart, he said no. “He made excuses like there’s no funding, we can’t invest in these things,” said Montalvo-Martinez. Soon after that rejection, Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis ignited protests, even in quiet Des Moines, where demonstrators clashed with cops, exchanging bricks and bottles for tear gas in May of 2020. The following month, Ahart sent a letter to families, titled “We ALL Must Be Actively ANTI-Racist.” Montalvo-Martinez said the district’s new anti-racist pledge gave the two students more political leverage, but they still needed tactical advice on how to sway administrators and board members. Jaylen Cavil, a defund the police advocate with the Black Liberation Movement and candidate for the Iowa House, became a key adviser. Montalvo-Martinez and Sellers gathered arrest data from the Des Moines human rights department and student testimonials about being traumatized by SROs before making presentations to principals, teachers and school board members individually. They encountered some resistance from school staff, but in their second meeting with the superintendent, Ahart agreed that the SROs must go. "Ahart did a 180," Montalvo-Martinez said. Thomas Ahart, superintendent: After Floyd's murder, “We ALL Must Be Actively ANTI-Racist.” But Ahart knew that most parents probably wouldn’t back his decision. In a survey by the district, a majority of parents (66%) and students (53%) had said they supported having police in schools. In the heated racial politics of the moment, the arrest data – blacks students were twice as likely to be involved with a SRO than whites – became a rallying point. Montalvo-Martinez and other activists said it showed that the cops were biased and targeted blacks for arrest. The cops, however, generally didn’t patrol the halls and playgrounds looking to make arrests. The vast majority of arrests started with calls for help to SROs from school administrators, who were identifying the incidents and misbehaving students that they wanted the cops to handle, district officials say. “I want to make clear that SROs were not the problem even though it comes off in the media that way,” Troja said. “They were summoned” to the scene. In February 2021, the school board voted unanimously to end the SRO program. “Kudos to these two students for really being intentional around the process and information and lining up support on this issue,” said Teree Caldwell-Johnson, vice chair of the school board.  Schools Take On Violence Control Following the lead of other districts, Des Moines developed a SRO replacement plan for schools to handle most of the behavior problems, other than serious crimes such as possession of a weapon. This way, students would avoid the taint of a police record that could harm their job prospects after graduation. Officials also argued that they could improve school safety if the $900,000 spent on SROs was redeployed in support of a new, community-based approach. That included bringing community organizations like Dads on a Mission – a group of local fathers who want to have a positive influence on students – into the schools. Hall monitors were hired so high schools now have five of them rather than one SRO. And the district has been rolling out a restorative justice program, where students hash out their conflicts in discussion groups in hopes of overcoming them – a practice that has had mixed results in other districts around the country. “We were calling the SROs for many incidents, like physical fights in the hallways, that we could have handled ourselves,” Troja said. “Now we are approaching safety differently by allocating funds to different resources to try to get better results.” The new approach didn’t get off to a good start. Last fall, after 16,000 middle and high school students returned to classrooms full-time in Des Moines, officials were caught off guard by the spike in fighting and disruptive behavior. The removal of the SROs didn’t cause the surge in violence, but nor were the cops readily available to tamp it down. Last September, there were 83 referrals for fighting in Des Moines’ six high schools compared with 59 in the same month in 2019 – a pattern of monthly increases that continued through December. Students posted numerous disturbing videos on Snapchat of boys and girls aggressively attacking each other at different schools, with punches to the head, kicks to the stomach and stomps on the chest. Then there’s the matter of guns. Last year, a student brought a loaded 9mm pistol into Lincoln High, alarming parents but not surprising them. From 2016 to 2020, the staff and SROs confiscated 20 lethal weapons from students, mostly loaded guns, in this school district of 32,000 students. Des Moines police say a number of gun shots have been fired near schools that have been linked to students, but without any fatalities. In addition to guns, students have access to a wide arsenal of weapons. In December, a Lincoln student who had been bullied brought a taser to school and used it when he was attacked by others bearing brass knuckles and pepper spray. Backlash at the School Board Aveantai Smith moved from Arlington, Texas, to Des Moines, where she had lived about 17 years ago, assuming the schools were as safe as she remembered. Instead, she has been horrified by the brutality that her son and daughter have encountered at Lincoln High. Smith met with the principal, who said he’s doing everything he can to control the surge in violence. But that didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. She pulled her daughter out of Lincoln and sent her back to Texas to live with her grandmother. Her son, a football player who isn’t easily intimidated, remains at the school. “It’s literally outrageous,” said Smith, herself a college nursing student. “The school is not safe and secure. The fighting is on a whole different level. I’m scared to send my kids to school every single day.” By December a backlash was underway, with Des Moines parents calling for a return of the SROs in media interviews. The controversy came to a head at a Dec. 7 school board meeting. LaGrange, whose son Jeremiah was attacked by another student, has been organizing other parents on social media behind the SRO cause. She bluntly told board members during the meeting to “wake up” to the reality of the rise in violence and restore the police program to protect students. Critics of SROs also spoke up at the meeting, repeating the story line about racist police practices. A public school employee told the board that the police were removed for “targeting black children” and that the racist practice would return with the SROs. An activist with the Young Women’s Resource Center urged the officials to reject the “dangerous narrative” pushed by local TV station KCCI in its “campaign against black children, framing them as sources of violence within our schools.” But KCCI hasn’t singled out black students in its coverage. Ten days later, Superintendent Ahart was forced to crack down on students, announcing a tougher suspension policy for fighting in a letter to families. After a first fight, students can stay in school and try to resolve the conflict. After a second, they shift to 30 school days of remote virtual learning with counseling to get to the root of the problem. A third fight means two months of virtual instruction. With the return of some old school discipline, the number of reported high school fights dropped to 47 in January compared with 67 in the same month of 2020. But Ahart, who announced his resignation on Feb. 28, was silent on the question of bringing back SROs. Would having cops on-site who can quickly respond to incidents like the brawl outside of Lincoln High in September also make a difference? “Yes, without SROs we lose that immediate access to an officer,” Troja said. “Does that have benefits? It does. But do those benefits outweigh the benefits that we gain now with our new approach? I don’t think so, or we wouldn’t have gone down this path.” Tyler Durden Thu, 03/10/2022 - 21:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMar 10th, 2022

The UK And Its Lost Opportunities

The UK And Its Lost Opportunities Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com, Two years after leaving the EU Britain has made almost none of the promised progress towards economic liberalisation. While Brussels hasn’t been helpful, libertarian ministers in the Tory government have been both conquered by the bureaucracy of the civil service and even turned into high spending statists. There has been no attempt to reduce the state’s suffocating dominance over the economy. On current policies, the private sector is set to continue its long-term decline, with higher taxes and ever-increasing regulation. But it needn’t be so. This article looks at the dangers and opportunities that Britain faces, principally inflation, the challenge of government spending, of maintaining a balanced budget, trade policy and why Britain should just declare unilateral free trade, foreign policy in a world where the future is American decline and a rising Russia—China partnership, and the economic craziness of the green agenda. There is no sign that these important issues are being addressed in a constructive and statesman-like manner. Fortunately or unfortunately, rising interest rates threaten to bring forward a crisis of bank credit of such magnitude that fiat currencies are likely to be undermined. Most of the policies recommended herein should be incorporated after the banking and currency crisis has passed as part of a reset designed to avoid repeating the mistakes of big government, Keynesianism, and the socialisation of economic resources. Decline and fall “This is the week a government that began with such promise finally lost its soul. Its great policy relaunch is a tragic mush, proof that it no longer believes in anything, not even in its self-preservation.” Allister Heath, Editor of The Sunday Telegraph writing in today’s Daily Telegraph 3 February Two years ago this week, Britain formally left the EU. Yet, it is estimated there are 20,000 pieces of primary EU legislation still on the statute books. And only now is there going to be an effort to remove or replace them with UK legislation. Obviously, going through them one by one would tie the legislative calendar up for years, so it is proposed to deal with them through an omnibus Brexit Freedoms Bill. Excuse me for being cynical, but one wonders that if the Prime Minister had not come under pressure from Partygate, would this distraction from it have got to first base? After two years of inaction, why now? And it transpires that instead of doing away with unnecessary regulations as suggested in the Brexit Freedoms Bill, legislative priority will be given to the economically destructive green agenda. This underlines Allister Heath’s comment above. There is also irrefutable evidence that a remain-supporting civil service has continually frustrated the executive over Brexit and has discouraged all meaningful economic reform. The way the Brexit Freedoms Bill is likely to play out is for every piece of EU legislation dropped, new UK regulations of similar or even tighter restrictions on production freedom will be introduced — drafted by the civil service bureaucracy with its Remainer sympathies. For improvement, read deterioration. It will require ministers in all departments to strongly resist this tendency — there’s not much hope of that. The track record of British government is not good. Since Margaret Thatcher was elected, successive conservative administrations have pledged to reduce unnecessary state intervention and ended up fostering the opposite. They raise taxes every time they are elected, even though they market themselves as the low tax party. While the number of quangos (quasi-autonomous national government organisations) has been reduced, in practice it is because they have been merged rather than abandoned and their remits have remained intact. Another measure of government intervention, the proportion of government spending to total GDP, has risen from about 40% to over 50% in 2020. An unfair comparison given the impact of covid, some would say. But there is little sign that the explosion of government spending will come back to former levels. Like the unelected bureaucracy in Brussels from which the nation sought to escape, the UK’s civil service has no concept of the economic benefits of free markets. Without having any skin in the game, they believe that government agencies are in the best position to decide economic outcomes for the common good. Decades of Keynesian reasoning, belief in bureaucratic process and never having had to work in a competitive environment have all fostered an arrogance of purpose in support of increasing statist economic management. It is a delusion that will end in crisis, as it did in 1975 when under a Labour government Britain was driven to borrow funds from the IMF that were reserved for third world nations. Against this background of restrictions to economic progress, the nation is unprepared to deal with some major issues appearing on the horizon. This article examines some of them: inflation, state spending, trade policies, foreign policies, and the economic harm from the green agenda. These are just some of the areas where policies can be improved for the good of the nation and create opportunities for greatness through economic strength. Inflation In common with other central banks, the Bank of England would have us believe that inflation is of prices only, failing to mention changes in the quantity of currency and credit in circulation. Yet even schoolchildren in primary education will tell you that if a cake is cut into a greater number of pieces, you do not end up with more cake; you end up with smaller pieces. It is the same with the money supply, or more correctly the quantity of currency and credit. Instead, central banks seem to believe in the parable of the feeding of the five thousand: five loaves and two fishes can be subdivided to satisfy the multitudes with some left over. The source of an increase in the general price level is increasing quantities of currency and credit, leading to each unit buying less, just like the smaller slices of cake. And measured by the Bank of England’s M4 (the broadest measure of currency and credit) the currency cake has been subdivided into many more smaller pieces in recent times. Figure 1 shows that M4 has increased from £1.82 trillion at the time of the Lehman failure to £2.96 trillion last September, an increase of 63%. But the rate of increase accelerated substantially in the first six months of 2020 to an annualised rate of 19.3%. This is the engine driving prices of goods higher, and to a lesser extent, services. At that time, currency inflation was everywhere, leading to significantly higher commodity prices. The commodity inputs to industry represent sharply rising production costs, coupled with skill shortages and supply chain disruptions. But these are merely the evidence of the currency cake being more thinly sliced. Buying and installing a new kitchen in your house requires more of the smaller slices of the currency cake than it did last year. All else being equal, there are still significant price effects to come with past currency debasements yet to work their way through to prices. And given that monetary policy is to meet rising prices by raising interest rates while still inflating, higher interest rates will follow as well. The effect on bond yields and equity prices will be beyond doubt. But all else is never equal, and the effect of higher production costs will be to close uneconomic production and put overindebted manufacturers out of business. This development is already becoming evident globally, with the post-pandemic bounce-back already fading. Being undermined, the effect on financial collateral values is likely to make banks more cautious, reduce bank lending, and at the margin increase the rate of foreclosures. The problem is that most currency in circulation is the counterpart of bank credit. A bond and equity bear market will lead to a contraction of bank credit, triggering policies designed to counter deflation. What will the Bank of England do? Undoubtedly, it will want to increase its monetary stimulation at a time of rising interest rates and falling financial values. The Bank will also find itself replacing contracting bank credit to keep the illusion of prosperity alive. The issuance of base currency will not be a trivial matter. But according to the Keynesians, who can only equate price levels with consumer demand, inflation during an economic slump should never happen. Worse, it will come at a time when UK banks are highly leveraged at record levels — Barclay’s, for example, has a ratio of assets to equity of about twenty times. And as the European financial centre, London is highly exposed to counterparty risk from the Eurozone which, being in a desperately fragile condition, is a major systemic threat. With these increased dangers so obviously present, it would behove the Bank and the Treasury to rebuild the national gold reserves, so foolishly sold down by Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor. It is the only insurance policy against a systemic and currency collapse that is becoming more likely as inflationary policies are pursued. Government spending As mentioned above, in 2020 the government’s share of GDP rose to over 50% and there appears to be no attempt to rein it in. And for all the rhetoric about post-Brexit Britain being an attractive place to do business, any government taking half of everyone’s income and profits in the form of taxes will fail to attract as many international businesses to locate in Britain as would otherwise be possible. Government spending is inherently wasteful. To enhance economic performance, the solution is to cut government spending to as low as possible in the shortest possible time and to reduce taxes with it. But instead, the Treasury is seeking to cover the budget deficit, which was £250bn in the last fiscal year (11.7% of GDP) by increasing taxes without reforming wasteful government spending. The civil service has protected its practices by seeing off attempts by government appointees, such as Dominic Cummings, to remodel the civil service on more effective lines. Critics of the Treasury’s policies say it is better to cut taxes to encourage growth which in future will generate the taxes to cover the deficit. But with the state already taking half of everyone’s income on average in taxes, the increase in the deficit while maintaining government spending will only add to inflationary pressures. The transfer of wealth from the private sector to the public sector by the expansion of currency will more than negate any benefit to the private sector from lower taxes. And the higher interest rates from yet higher price inflation will bankrupt overindebted borrowers in a highly leveraged economy. Those who think the Bank of England is clueless about finances and economics should not omit the Treasury from their criticisms. About the only thing the Treasury gets right is the necessity to eliminate the budget deficit, albeit by the wrong approach which is simply to increase the tax burden on the private sector. But in this objective it has consistently failed, as shown in Figure 2. From the seventies, budget deficits have only been eliminated briefly in the boom times of fiscal 1989/90 and 2000/01. The OBR’s forecast of a return to near balance in 2023/24 is a demonstration of wishful thinking. On the verge of a new downturn in production brought about by unsustainable cost pressures, the deficit is likely to decline only marginally, if at all. Budget deficits create an additional problem, because without an increase in consumer savings (discouraged by the Keynesians), national accounting shows that a twin trade deficit is the consequence. And without the trade deficit contracting, the Remainers in the establishment are bound to claim that Brexit has not delivered the benefits in trade promised by the Brexiteers. Trade policy Besides gaining political independence, Brexit was said to lead to an opportunity for better terms of trade than could be obtained as a member of the EU. Britain’s industrial history and heritage is as an entrepôt, whereby goods were imported, processed, and re-exported to international markets. The concept of freeports was promoted with this in mind. The UK government has so far made laborious progress in signing trade agreements in a protectionist world. A far better approach would be to abandon trade agreements and tariffs altogether, with the sole exception of protecting some agricultural produce, for which special treatment can be justified. Today, agriculture is a small part of the economy, and the benefits to the consumer of scrapping tariffs are relatively minor, but risk fundamentally bankrupting important parts of the rural economy. To understand why Britain should abandon trade agreements for tariff free trade, we should refer to David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage. Ricardo argued that if a distant producer was better at producing a good or service than a local one which is therefore unable to compete, then it is better to reap the benefit of the distant production and for the local producer to either find a better way of manufacturing the product, or to deploy the capital of production elsewhere. The theory was put to the test by Robert Peel, who as Prime Minister rescinded and finally repealed the Corn Laws between 1846—1849. The consequence for the British economy was that lower food prices in what was for most of the population a subsistence economy allowed the labouring masses to buy other things to improve their standard of living. Not only did living standards improve, but employment was created in the woollen, cotton, and tobacco industries and much else besides. Furthermore, other countries began to adopt free trade policies, which combined with sound money led to widespread economic improvement. By the First World War, over 80% of the world’s shipping then afloat, central to international trade, had been built in Britain. The situation today is different, in that the effect of removing food tariffs from what has become a relatively small sector is far too emotive for the potential gain. This is less true of industry, despite the undoubted cries that would emanate from protectionists. But a Glaswegian is perfectly free to buy a product made in Birmingham, or to contract for a service provided from London, even if there is an equivalent available in Glasgow. But what’s the difference between our Glaswegian buying something from Birmingham, compared with Stuttgart, or Lyons, or China? The answer is none, other than he gets more choice, and the signal sent to domestic manufacturers is they are uncompetitive. And it’s no good claiming that foreigners are unfair competition. If a foreign manufacturer is subsidised in its production, that is all to the benefit of UK consumers. Tariffs are a tax on consumers and lead to less efficient domestic production. The benefit for Britain is that if it becomes a genuinely free trade centre, international manufacturing and service activities would gravitate to the UK, providing additional employment — all the empirical evidence confirms this is what happens. It would be a direct challenge to the EU’s Fortress Europe trade policies designed to keep foreigners out. And to the degree that tariff reform is promoted, Britain would be doing the world a favour, because as in Robert Peel’s time, other nations would likely follow suit. The dirty truth about tariffs is that they are a tax on one’s own people as well as an unnecessary restriction of trade. Instead of recognising this truth and the evidence of its own experience, Britain is pursuing a halfway-house of laborious trade agreements. Through limited relief on taxes, the half-hearted proposal to set up free ports is an admission of the burden the government places on business in the normal course: otherwise, why are free ports an incentive? Far better to reduce taxes on all production and remove the tariff burdens on everyone. This conservative administration started with constructive trade policies, but the permanent establishment has whittled them down to the point where they are likely to be minimised and ineffective, confirming in its Remainer yearnings that Brexit was a political and economic blunder. Foreign policy One of the opportunities presented by Brexit was for the UK government to think through its foreign policy agenda, and how Britain can best serve itself and the rest of the world. The history of its foreign policy might have provided a guide, though it seems to have been ignored. Instead, Britain is sticking to the Foreign Office’s and intelligence services’ status quo, which is basically to be unquestioningly allied through the five-eyes partnership with America. Admittedly, it would have been difficult to do otherwise in the wake of President Trump’s successful takedown of Huawei, spreading fear of Chinese spying in a modern version of reds under the bed. But the reality of modern geopolitics is that Halford Mackinder’s Heartland Theory, first presented to the Royal Geographical Society in London in 1904, is coming true: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world.” — Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 150 There can be no doubt that the alliance between Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China together with the other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are proving Mackinder’s prophecy and that they are destined to become the dominant geopolitical force in the world. Therefore, Britain remains hitched in the long term to the eventual loser when it should be reconsidering its relationship with Eastern European nations, for which read Russia. A substantial rethink over foreign policy is due, and instead of the status quo, there is profit to be had in studying the status quo ante — Britain’s foreign policies at the time of the Napoleonic wars and subsequently. Lord Liverpool was Prime Minister, with Castlereagh as Foreign Secretary and Wellington as commander-in-chief of the army. They had an iron rule never to interfere in a foreign state’s domestic policies but only to act to protect British interests. Those interests principally concern trade, and they guided foreign policy and protected British property in the colonies until the First World War. Compared with the foreign policy principals of the nineteenth century, the support given to American hegemony in attacking nations in the Middle East and North Africa on purely political grounds has been a disaster, leading to unnecessary deaths and the displacement of millions of refugees. Some of these ventures could have been prevented if Britain had not joined in. Britain’s refusal to support a Syrian invasion after a parliamentary vote turned it down was a rare example of Britain standing up for its own interests, no thanks to a government which would otherwise have sent the troops in. The US is dragging its heels with respect to a trade agreement with the UK, and that should be considered as well. A modern Castlereagh would take these factors into consideration in proposing a new treaty securing trade and defence considerations for both European nations and Russia, thereby respecting their sovereignties. There are enough elements in play for a sensible outcome, particularly if America is made to accept that its role in Europe is divisive and that it has no option but to accommodate compromise. The British government is in a unique position to broker a deal, if it can demonstrate political independence from all parties, including America. The green agenda The government’s green agenda, whereby the nation is mandated to cut carbon emissions by 78% from 1990 levels by 2035 with a target of net zero by 2050 is a deliberate policy of economic destruction. After the boost to non-fossil fuel investment, initially funded by yet more government spending, the costs imposed on the population to replace domestic heating by gas and oil with heat pumps is prohibitive and impractical. It can only be achieved by the destruction and rebuilding of swathes of existing residential and commercial properties. The energy available will be overdependent on unreliable wind and solar panel sources, and the available supply will be facing far larger demands on the grid than imposed today. Keynesians advising the government seem to believe that all the investment and rebuilding to new ecological standards stimulates economic activity — this has been argued by them before in the context of post-war reconstruction. But then Bastiat’s broken window fallacy, whereby the alternative use of economic resources is not being considered, appears to have passed them by. The green replacement of transport logistics, which is well over 95% diesel driven, is a destruction of efficient and current capacity to be replaced by electrical powered transportation whose energy source is to be shared with all other energy demands. The only possible solution to the problem created by climate change activism involves the rapid development of nuclear energy. But besides taking decades from drawing board to switch on, nuclear is stymied on cost grounds, with wind and solar being far cheaper on a per therm basis. Furthermore, only 16% of Britain’s electricity supply is nuclear, and almost half of that is due to be decommissioned by 2025, with only one new plant under construction. The UK government’s green policies are propelling the nation into an energy disaster, when it has substantial fossil fuel reserves available in the form of coal and natural gas. Coal driven electricity supply has been reduced to under 3%. Instead of being phased out it should be brought back into supply production, because scrubbers remove almost all particulates and sulphates, and doubtless can be further developed to deal with CO2 emissions as well. There are good reasons to reinstate coal and for that matter gas fracking. China and India retain and are increasing their coal powered supplies, giving them a significant energy price advantage for their own economies over the West. And while they have signed up to eventually reducing their coal dependency, it is a promise to do so at a vanishingly future date. On energy grounds alone, Britain along with other European nations are committing themselves to swapping their economic status with emerging nations, so that when the latter have fully emerged, Britain and Europe will then have the third world status. Whatever climate change debate merits, it is an argument which is not to be confused with economics. It must be admitted that in the enthusiasm for doing away with fossil fuels and primary and reliable sources of energy, under this current government the outlook for Britain’s economy is of an accelerated decline. The likely outcome of government policies From what started as a government of ministers with a strong libertarian approach, two years later we see the opportunity to improve Britain’s economic consequences sadly squandered. Politically, the position is fragile, with the Prime Minister struggling to survive in the wake of the report on Partygate and the ongoing police investigation. Furthermore, he appears to have found it far easier and more pleasurable to increase spending than address wasteful government spending. It is difficult to be optimistic, with the signs that the permanent civil service establishment remains firmly in charge and is increasing its economic and bureaucratic influence over weak ministries. Perhaps the most important of the difficulties outlined above is monetary inflation, likely to lead to higher interest rates in the coming months. This is not a trend isolated to sterling, and even on a best-case basis whereby a Conservative government addresses the issues raised in this article, it is very likely that attempts at economic, monetary, trade policy, foreign policy, and administrative reforms will be overtaken by the repetitive cycle of bank lending contraction. So highly geared have banks in the Eurozone become, for which London acts as the principal financial centre, that rising interest rates seem sure to trigger a global banking crisis with London as an epicentre on a scale larger than that of thirteen years ago when Lehman failed. Such an event is likely to destroy not only banking and central banking as we know it today, but currencies, the debasement of which socialising governments increasingly rely upon. Nevertheless, the issues raised in this article will remain and need to be addressed after a currency and credit crisis has passed and economic stability begins to return. The role for a British government with respect to foreign policy will become more important, particularly for post-crisis European political stability when the euro and possibly the entire Brussels construct have been destroyed. In this event the threat of another European war cannot be dismissed, and we will need the wisdom of a modern Lord Liverpool and Viscount Castlereagh. The destruction of the fiat currency system will provide opportunities for a reset, based on the lessons learned. The post-crisis government must learn from the mistakes of past errors and be the servant of the people and not its master. It must not interfere in the economy, and keep its size to the minimum possible, taxing no more than 10—15% of everyone’s income and profits. It must restrict its role to providing a framework for contract and criminal law and the policing of the latter, as well as the defence of the realm. It must not respond to any demands for special treatment from either businesses or individuals. Individuals must take full responsibility for their own actions, and any welfare strictly limited. And most importantly, the state must ensure that currency is sound, backed by and exchangeable for gold coin. Tyler Durden Sun, 02/06/2022 - 07:35.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeFeb 6th, 2022