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US Democracy Faces Gravest Danger

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Opinion by Alon Ben-Meir (new york)Thursday, January 06, 2022Inter Press Service

Righting the Wrong

On January 6, Trump was planning to hold a press conference during which he was expected to repeat lies for the hundredth time that the election in 2020 was stolen, that the insurrection a year ago was actually peaceful, and that he – not Biden – is the duly-elected president.

He canceled the press conference at the urging of the GOP and now is expected to instead spread these lies at his Arizona rally next week. He will, needless to say, remain true to himself and deny any wrongdoing and blame the Democrats for persistently undermining his presidency as well as for all the ills that face America today.

Trump is uniquely dangerous; he wants to solidify his absolute control over the Republican Party, rouse his followers, instill hatred of the Democrats, and of course raise enough money for his re-election campaign should he decide to run again.

Moreover, the Arizona rally will be his first foray into the mid-term elections designed to rouse the rank-and-file of the Republican Party to recapture the House and the Senate as the forerunner to the 2024 election.

The tragic aspect of the Trump phenomenon is that the elected leaders of the Republican Party continue to follow him religiously, regardless of the fact that he is corrupt, was defeated in re-election as an incumbent, was impeached twice, and faces several criminal charges.

Indeed, no former president in American history has been able to maintain his grip on his party the way Trump has. And no Republican Party has abdicated its moral and constitutional responsibilities and willingly succumbed to a deranged egomaniac, misogynist, and habitual liar. How could this happen, and why? The answer is Trump’s and the Republicans’ voracious lust for power.

The Republican Party has become a minority party and there is no circumstance under which the party can win nationally in a free and fair election. Demographically, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and other minorities currently represent more than 40 percent of the American population, and it is estimated that by 2045 they will become the majority, who largely vote for Democrats.

Collectively, even at the present they can deny the Republican Party from ever capturing the White House again if they go out and vote en masse.

The Republican Party faces two choices: one is to adapt to the changing demographic reality and develop socio-economic programs that respond to the needs of people of color (POC) without sacrificing much of their conservative ideology.

This includes lowering taxes, particularly for those who earn less than $200,000 a year, immigration reform, which the Republican Party has long-acknowledged needs addressing and will help in outreach especially to Hispanic voters, and supporting minority small business owners with tax breaks and other financial incentives, which won’t incur further government spending.

The second choice is to prevent or make it extremely difficult for POC to exercise their right to vote through a variety of deplorable measures. One state after another is passing discriminatory rules, including gerrymandering districts on racial lines, restricting early voting, which disproportionately affects Black Americans who are more likely than any other ethnic or racial group to cast early ballots (whether in-person or by mail and absentee ballots), enacting voter ID laws even though voter impersonation fraud is exceedingly rare and those who don’t have valid ID are disproportionately POC, and empower state legislators to invert their own elections and manipulate the electoral college to their advantage.

Sadly, if not tragically, the Republican Party went for the latter option. Many Republicans simply believe that POC are illegitimate citizens and should not be able to vote and have the power, as they fear accurately or otherwise, to enact laws against whites, the way whites have enacted discriminatory laws against POC. America, from their perspective, was founded by white people, and the thought that the US is becoming browner every passing day scares them to the core.

They needed a leader who is a bigot, shameless, and crude, with no scruples and no morals, but audacious—a performer with the ability to sway large audiences with his lies and sneering face. The Republicans need him to promote their agenda without fear of public repercussions, and he needs the party to satisfy his ego in order to exercise raw power, and also grant him its full support should he decide to run again.

We are still reeling from the violent storming of the Capitol on January 6 to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Trump, who incited his followers to attack the Capitol, was ready to shatter our democracy only to bask in his authoritarian impulse.

What does that say about the Republican Party, which largely ignored or downplayed the insurrection in its determination to seize power and chose chaos and violence over voting, even at the expense of tearing our democratic institutions apart? How ironic and deeply troubling that 52 percent of Republicans say that the insurrectionists were trying to protect democracy.

The most ominous note that must be repeated loud and clear is that the party under the leadership of Trump will incite violence should they fail to win the 2022 election, as anyone who carefully listens to the many utterances spewed by reckless Republicans leaders can discern with clarity.

In that context, although Trump during his rally will not openly encourage his followers to resort to violence to undo the result of the election, the message to them will be loud and clear.

It is hard to exaggerate the transformation of the Republican Party since the rise of Trump in 2016, from a patriotic party that stood for democracy to a white supremacist party willing to destroy it only to stay in power.

Many thousands of Republican leaders should follow the footsteps of Representative Liz Cheney, who stood up against Trump and in favor of the truth, and still rescue our democracy by accepting reality and being truthful with their followers.

The election of Biden gave the country hope of preserving our democracy and attending to the political and social malaise that swept the nation, especially during Trump’s tenure in the White House. But to address these ills, the Democrats must spare no effort to hold onto the House and Senate in the 2022 mid-term election, as these will be the most consequential in more than a century.

Indeed, should the Republicans manage to recapture both chambers of Congress, our democracy will slide toward the precipice of disintegration while authoritarianism creeps in, and Biden’s agenda will be shattered.

The Democrats have their work cut out for them. They must rise in unison, which is bitterly still missing, stop short of nothing to strengthen voting rights, prevent the appointment of partisans to subvert the election, fight political corruption at every level, make political power decreasingly dependent on money, get out the vote, and eliminate the filibuster to pass the voting rights bill.

Furthermore, they must hold accountable the traitors behind the insurrection on January 6, including Trump.

Democrats and the millions of law-abiding Republicans should sound the alarm before it’s too late, and never waver to preserve and protect America’s 244-year-old democracy that served as a beacon of hope and freedom to the global community.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU). He taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.


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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Original Post: globalissues.org

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From Milan to Glasgow, Young Moroccans Commit to Fighting Climate Change

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A new way to recycle large amounts of coffee grounds; a platform connecting young African activists; technology to produce electricity from ocean waves or recycle plastic. A new energy-efficient construction method – an innovative carpooling app. 

Read the full story, “From Milan to Glasgow, young Moroccans commit to fighting climate change”, on globalissues.org

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Health Workers Lauded for Role in Leprosy Treatment During Pandemic

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Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Chairperson of the Nippon Foundation, thanks participants at a webinar ‘Raising Awareness about Leprosy, Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level’ organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative. He is with other participants from Japan, India and Nepal in the “Don’t Forget Leprosy” campaign event. by Joyce Chimbi (nairobi, kenya)Thursday, January 20, 2022Inter Press Service

Sasakawa, the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, was speaking at a webinar ‘Raising Awareness about Leprosy, Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level’ organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative.

A leprosy-free world was one where “patients and those cured of leprosy live free of discrimination and, people around them will be free of the misunderstanding, ignorance and fear that perpetuate discrimination”, he told the webinar.

Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative is a strategic alliance between WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, the Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Health Foundation for achieving a world without leprosy and problems related to the disease. The initiative spearheaded a campaign, “Don’t Forget Leprosy”, to raise awareness about the condition in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WHO Goodwill Ambassador envisions a post-COVID world where those affected by leprosy will be liberated from such stigma and discrimination in keeping with human rights.

Sasakawa says this world is now at risk of delaying leprosy elimination due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as there was a 37 percent drop in reported new cases and leprosy programs in many countries have stalled or scaled back.

Participants heard about the role of health professionals in combating leprosy, recognition of this role and the successes and challenges faced in addressing leprosy during the ongoing health pandemic.

Their role, Sasakawa said, was a central pillar to the vision of a leprosy free world as it helps reduce transmission and disability.

An estimated three to four million people live with some form of disability caused by leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease.

“The ‘Don’t Forget Leprosy’ is a global campaign because our voices alone are not enough. Stopping leprosy requires (the involvement of) all of us, from India and Nepal to all other countries around the world,” he said.

Dr Rashmi Shukla outlined efforts in India to identify and treat patients with leprosy. He was speaking at a webinar ‘Raising Awareness about Leprosy, Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level’ organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Dinesh Basnet, Central President of the International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement (IDEA) in Nepal, said he was happy to see progress in recent years.

“More so Nepal’s efforts to track and eliminate leprosy. Even during the pandemic, detection and treatment interventions were uninterrupted, and this has been possible due to government commitment and unrelenting efforts of health professionals,” said Basnet.

“People affected by leprosy were not forgotten as communication continued through WhatsApp groups, and this was critical during the lockdown.”

Dr Indra Napit, a senior Orthopedic Surgeon at Anandaban Hospital, Nepal, spoke about innovative technology in the trial of Autologous Blood products to promote ulcer healing in Leprosy. He added that a new drug was on trial to manage reactions to this form of treatment at this leprosy mission.

In a video message, Birodh Khatiwada, Nepal’s Minister of Health and Population, spoke of Nepal’s undisrupted program to address leprosy, including the continued supply of leprosy medication despite the pandemic.

He says Nepal has already prepared the National Leprosy Roadmap, 2021-2030, National Leprosy Strategy 2021-2025, in line with the Global Leprosy Strategy, Neglected Tropical Diseases Roadmap and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sasakawa emphasized that it was indeed the ultimate goal for India and other affected countries worldwide to reach zero leprosy cases by 2030.

Despite challenges in the fight to eliminate leprosy, a ray of hope shines through, with Anju Sharma sharing good practices in case finding in India amid the ongoing health pandemic.

Sharma is an accredited Social Health Activist and is considered a driving force behind India’s public health system and an essential link between the community and the public health system.

“Screening for leprosy during the pandemic is much more difficult. As COVID-19 cases increase, so does my responsibilities because I have to strictly follow COVID-19 protocols, and this takes a lot of time,” Sharma explained.

“Due to the pandemic, people are hesitant about getting screened. But I reassure them that protocols will be observed and remind them that failure to detect and treat leprosy can lead to disability.”

Dr Venkata Ranganadha Rao Pemmaraju, acting team leader, WHO Global Leprosy Programme, emphasized that discussing the role of health workers was critical, and hearing from those in the frontlines helps efforts to eliminate the pandemic move forward.

WHO, he said, subscribes to the Don’t Forget Leprosy campaign. He lauded ongoing efforts to sustain counselling for those affected by leprosy and those who tracked and managed Nepal-India cross border leprosy cases despite challenges COVID-19 protocols like restrictions on movement and lockdowns.

Dinesh Basnet, a person affected by leprosy thanked health care workers and others for their efforts in eliminating the disease. He was talking at a webinar ‘Raising Awareness about Leprosy, Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level’ organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Similarly, Dr Rabindra Baskota, the Leprosy Control and Disability Management Section director in Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population, confirmed that health workers had been relentless to find new cases, raising awareness on leprosy and treating patients despite ongoing challenges.

“Still, there is a need to train community health workers to detect new cases and manage reactions to leprosy treatment even as older and more experienced health workers retire,” he said.

Dr Anil Kumar, the deputy director-general (Leprosy) in India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, who spoke about good practices in combating leprosy said that a leprosy-free India was not very far off.

Despite a notable decline in screening and detecting cases due to COVID-19, he said critical interventions were nonetheless rolled out, and that leprosy-related services continued at the grassroots level.

“Migrant labourers were screened for leprosy at point of return to home districts and patients on treatment tracked. Treatment defaulters were cross notified based on the address in treatment record,” Kumar said.

“A WhatsApp group titled Leprosy Action Group was created for cross notification, and members included state leprosy officers and partners. Supportive supervision and monitoring up to sub-district level using virtual platforms continues.”

Executive Director of the Sasakawa Health Foundation, Dr Takahiro Nanri, moderated a panel discussion that included a session to further shed light on additional support needed to achieve leprosy elimination milestones.

Sasakawa suggested that health workers’ training included human rights, and the panel lauded health workers for their passionate and proactive steps to eliminate the disease.


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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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Ominous History in Real Time: Where We Are Now in the USA

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US President Joseph R. Biden Jr. addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 76th session last year. In his inaugural address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the UN, Biden called for a new era of global unity against the compounding crises of COVID-19, climate change and insecurity. Credit: UN Photo/Cia PakOpinion by Norman Solomon (san francisco, usa)Monday, January 17, 2022Inter Press Service

Dollar figures can look abstract on a screen, but they indicate the extent of the mania. Biden had asked for “only” $12 billion more than President Trump’s bloated military budget of the previous year — but that wasn’t enough for the bipartisan hawkery in the House and Senate, which provided a boost of $37 billion instead.

Overall, military spending accounts for about half of the federal government’s total discretionary spending — while programs for helping instead of killing are on short rations at many local, state, and national government agencies. It’s a nonstop trend of reinforcing the warfare state in sync with warped neoliberal priorities. While outsized profits keep benefiting the upper class and enriching the already obscenely rich, the cascading effects of extreme income inequality are drowning the hopes of the many.

Corporate power constrains just about everything, whether healthcare or education or housing or jobs or measures for responding to the climate emergency. What prevails is the political structure of the economy.

Class war in the United States has established what amounts to oligarchy. A zero-sum economic system, aka corporate capitalism, is constantly exercising its power to reward and deprive. The dominant forces of class warfare — disproportionately afflicting people of color while also steadily harming many millions of whites — continue to undermine basic human rights including equal justice and economic security.

In the real world, financial power is political power. A system that runs on money is adept at running over people without it.

The words “I can’t breathe,” repeated nearly a dozen times by Eric Garner in a deadly police chokehold, resonated for countless people whose names we’ll never know. The intersections of racial injustice and predatory capitalism are especially virulent zones, where many lives gradually or suddenly lose what is essential for life.

Discussions of terms like “racism” and “poverty” too easily become facile, abstracted from human consequences, while unknown lives suffocate at the hands of routine injustice, systematic cruelties, the way things predictably are.

An all-out war on democracy is now underway in the United States. More than ever, the Republican Party is the electoral arm of unabashed white supremacy as well as such toxicities as xenophobia, nativism, anti-gay bigotry, patriarchy, and misogyny.

The party’s rigid climate denial is nothing short of deranged. Its approach to the Covid pandemic has amounted to an embrace of death in the name of rancid individualism. With its Supreme Court justices in place, the “Grand Old Party” has methodically slashed voting rights and abortion rights.

Overall, on domestic matters, the partisan matchup is between neoliberalism and neofascism. While the abhorrent roles of the Democratic leadership are extensive, to put it mildly, the two parties now represent hugely different constituencies and agendas at home. Not so on matters of war and peace.

Both parties continue to champion what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.” When King described the profligate spending for a distant war as “some demonic, destructive suction tube,” he was condemning dynamics that endure with a vengeance.

Today, the madness and the denial are no less entrenched. A militaristic core serves as a sacred touchstone for faith in America as the world’s one and only indispensable nation. Gargantuan Pentagon budgets are taken for granted, as is the assumed prerogative to bomb other countries at will.

Every budget has continued to include massive outlays for nuclear weapons, including gigantic expenditures for so-called “modernization” of the nuclear arsenal. A fact that this book cited when it was first published — that the United States had ten thousand nuclear warheads and Russia had a comparable number — is no longer true; most estimates say those stockpiles are now about half as large.

But the current situation is actually much more dangerous. In 2007, the Doomsday Clock maintained by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists pegged the world’s proximity to annihilation at five minutes to apocalyptic Midnight.

As 2022 began, the symbolic hands were at one hundred seconds to Midnight. Such is the momentum of the nuclear arms race, fueled by profit-driven military contractors. Lofty rhetoric about seeking peace is never a real brake on the nationalistic thrust of militarism.

With the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the third decade of this century is shaping up to unfold new wrinkles in American hegemonic conceits. Along the way, Joe Biden has echoed a central precept of doublethink in George Orwell’s most famous novel, 1984: “War is Peace.”

Speaking at the United Nations as the autumn of 2021 began, Biden proclaimed: “I stand here today, for the first time in twenty years, with the United States not at war. We’ve turned the page.” But the turned page was bound into a volume of killing with no foreseeable end.

The United States remained at war, bombing in the Middle East and elsewhere, with much information withheld from the public. And increases in U.S. belligerence toward both Russia and China escalated the risks of a military confrontation that could lead to nuclear war.

A rosy view of the USA’s future is only possible when ignoring history in real time. After four years of the poisonous Trump presidency, the Biden strain of corporate liberalism offers a mix of antidotes and ongoing toxins. The Republican Party, now neofascist, is in a strong position to gain control of the U.S. government by mid-decade.

Preventing such a cataclysm seems beyond the grasp of the same Democratic Party elites that paved the way for Donald Trump to become president in the first place. Realism about the current situation — clarity about how we got here and where we are now — is necessary to mitigate impending disasters and help create a better future. Vital truths must be told. And acted upon.

This article is adapted from the new edition of Norman Solomon’s book “Made Love, Got War,” just published as a free e-book.

Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of a dozen books including Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State, published in a new edition as a free e-book in January 2022. His other books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.


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