The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that it is launching a review into a Biden administration-run detention center that holds thousands of unaccompanied migrant children in Fort Bliss, Texas following whistleblower allegations of unsafe conditions.The facility is one of the larger Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) set up to keep children out of Border Patrol custody, but human rights advocates say kids have languished there for too long and in conditions detrimental to their physical and mental well-being.”This review will analyze interviews and on-site observations regarding case management challenges at Fort Bliss that may have impeded the safe and timely release of children to sponsors,” the internal government watchdog stated. “This oversight will help ensure that Fort Bliss and other EISs provide adequate case management services.”Monday’s announcement follows multiple whistleblower complaints about Fort Bliss.In a complaint filed last week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a pair of whistleblowers cited problems including clothing shortages and children being told at an airport they were going back home only to be told it was a mistake and then returned to the facility.Earlier last month, a separate pair of whistleblowers, in a complaint filed by GAO, cited “numerous instances of gross mismanagement” at Fort Bliss that cause harm to children’s “health and wellbeing.”Other problems in the “airplane hangar-sized tents” holding the children included “painfully loud music” from loudspeakers, dirty tents that smelled of sewage, children’s distress being “met with indifference or even resistance,” and “wholly unsuitable contract staff.” Among the specific complaints about staff were individuals who “seemed to view their job more as crowd control than youth care.”MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes” on Friday dug into the concerns raised by the whistleblowers and why the facility was lacking necessary oversight:NBC News correspondent Julia Ainsley told host Chris Hayes that the administration has so far pursued “piecemeal” approaches to addressing the problems rather than “a wholesale investigation to Fort Bliss and of other emergency intake facilities and to get to the bottom of why these contractors got this contract in the first place.”Instead of an IG review, Ainsley said “you would want someone to come in right away and see if someone needs to be immediately removed from caring for these children.”

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On July 21, I was walking in the forests surrounding the German Air Force Base at Büchel in the Eifel Mountains with three Catholic Worker friends, Susan van der Hijden of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Susan Crane of Redwood City, California, and Christiane Danowski of Dortmund, Germany. We were there at the end of an “International Week” of protests against the approximately 20 US nuclear gravity bombs known as B61s kept at the base in a “nuclear sharing” agreement with the United States.In previous days we had visited the entrance gates to the base with our signs and banners and two days before we participated in a “Digging for Life” action outside the fences, near the other end of the runway, where the German pilots liftoff and land their Italian made PA200 Tornado jet fighters, daily training to drop US nuclear bombs on Russia when the order is given. This day we hiked to the other, less accessible, end of the runway, through a forest of dead and dying trees decimated by recent years of drought, unprecedented heat and a massive bark beetle infestation affected by climate change.In the clearing near where the runway begins, we noticed a couple of “spotters,” hobbyists who got there before us looking to get dramatic photos of the jets taking off. In their company, while we were scouting and imagining potential future protests at the site, we also knew that some action was imminent.Beyond the fence that marked the boundary of the base from the forest, there was a high berm of earth that shielded the nearby Tornados warming up their engines for takeoff from our view. We could not see, but we heard the purr of their engines turn to a roar and we felt the earth shake and we saw and then smelled a wall- acrid and black, a stinking miasma of burnt and unburned jet fuel- rising above the berm and over our heads before the jets screamed off away from us to take to the air to rehearse for the end of everything.Not far from where these Tornado jets were spewing out more than 13 tons of CO2 per flight hour into the atmosphere, cities and towns in the river valleys were cleaning up from recent rains and floods that left more than 177 dead and hundreds more still missing at the time- in some places the rivers rose to the highest in over 100 years, possibly higher than any seen in the last 1,000 years.Participation in the annual “International Week” in the COVID pandemic was already hampered by the fact that it was held just days after Germany opened its borders to vaccinated visitors from places like the US, and by July 15, the day after my own arrival by air, many railroads and highways were closed by rising water. We heard harrowing travel stories from those few who were able to join us from various points in Germany. Our numbers were much less than expected and the catastrophe of the floods called us to reassess our plans for the week.We had planned to have enough people to nonviolently blockade the various gates of the base on Friday July 16th, marking the 76th anniversary of the first atomic bomb detonation at Alamogordo, New Mexico in 1945, and the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 uranium mine waste spill at Church Rock, New Mexico — the largest accidental release of radioactive materials in US history. We recognized that even with our reduced numbers, such an act of civil resistance would distract police from search and rescue work that many of them were doing in flooded places in the region. Members of our group met with local police and the commander of the base to inform them that instead of a blockade there would be a simple quiet vigil with signs and prayers outside the main gate on July 16, the planned “Digging for Life” action scheduled for three days later would go on.The original concept of the event was to be a symbolic piece of theater around the base’s new highly armed security fence with surveillance cameras, motion sensors and a deep concrete foundation. The plan that some of us would dig with pink shovels with the impossible aim of making a tunnel under the fortification and get onto and close the runway while others would cheer them on from a picnic in the adjoining meadow, had to be adapted to our reduced numbers and in recognition of the devastation that had been unfolding around us in the preceding days.The vibrant pink shovels were muted with black paint or tied with black ribbons. Banners with more light hearted messages written in pastels were left behind and new ones made more in keeping with the moment, in German, white on black, “STOP THE NEXT CATASTROPHE BEFORE IT BEGINS- ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS!”As the event unfolded, 14 activists from Germany, the US and the Netherlands were met at the fence by several times that number of civilian and military police, who after an hour arrested four of the most persistent diggers who were soon released without any charges. While especially in light of the $14 million plus spent on the new fence meant to keep people like us out, the civilian police had better things to do and could easily have ignored our clearly symbolic effort, some in the local press and more in social media blamed us for distracting the police and military from dealing with the aftermath of the floods.In the midst of their national disaster, only about 1,000 of the 150,000 soldiers in the German military were employed in flood relief and on the day we were digging for life at Büchel, Tornado jets were crisscrossing over our heads, causing police, protesters, soldiers and members of the press alike to cover our ears from their deafening roar, illustrating what is often ignored and never mentioned in climate negotiations, the huge part that the militaries of the world play in the climate crisis, the US and its allies more than the rest.Before the digging began at the fence and under the screaming jets, a police detective called my name and with some ceremony served me with papers from the court informing me that I had been accused, convicted and sentenced to a 900 euro fine or 30 days in prison in response to my actions on my last visit to Germany and to Büchel, two years ago, along with two others, Susan from California and Susan from Amsterdam. It was decided by the court that “through the same act and acting collectively” and “within the scope of the annual meeting and demonstration against nuclear weapons at the airbase of fighter-bomber squadron 33,” I had “gained unlawful access to the military area and its security sector” by cutting holes in the fence. I remember that the military police sergeant who apprehended us was unreasonably upset about the hole we had made, not so much concerned about the weapons of mass destruction that he was guarding nor the violations of the German Constitution and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that they pose. Before leaving Germany, I filed an appeal of my conviction and sentence in the court at Cochem and I hope for the opportunity to argue against the assumed legality of nuclear weapons in a German court.The United States is preparing to upgrade its current B61nuclear bombs with the new B61-12, reportedly costing over $20 million each and the German government is looking to soon replace its fleet of Tornados with more sophisticated fighter bombers, both governments spending billions on systems that will significantly lower the threshold of nuclear war and contribute to global warming. There is no solution to the climate crisis and no hope for human life on this planet that does not include disarmament and an end to war.

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Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.The discovery of insulin 100 years ago “transformed diabetes from a death sentence to a chronic condition,” went the unflinching headline of a powerful look back at the strides and disparities in treatment and outcomes by the Endocrine Society last week. The centennial was acutely personal for many MoJo readers who wrote us with a mix of outrage at the obscenely high costs, celebration of the medical advances that save lives, and recognition of the vast work ahead. “Air” is how one reader describes the medicine that another reader says she has to “ration” to stay alive.
Your responses got to the heart of the relief, anger, strength, and stamina that diabetes demands, but there was also big-picture acknowledgment of the milestone: “Each year on July 27, I toast Frederick Banting and Charles Best,” insulin’s discoverers, a reader tells us. “It has been 50 years since I started injecting daily doses, and it has saved my life.”
Still, “the real expense is up to $1,000 a month” for a reader whose out-of-pocket cost is exorbitant. By contrast, an American living in the Netherlands tells us “there is no way I can afford to move back to the States” and keep getting insulin.
“I’m lucky to live in the UK,” writes a reader whose insulin is subsidized. “I am enormously grateful for this and frankly horrified at the situation in the US, where one’s ability to control this condition, and remain alive, is related to wealth.”
Care for family is a constant: “Insulin means that my little brother’s diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at age 7 wasn’t a death sentence.” “My son’s blood will turn acidic within hours and he will die” without insulin. “I’m grateful for the discovery. But his insulin retails at $339.99 per vial.” Which is why policy debates are so visceral for the reader who points out that “General Wesley Clark famously said when he announced his presidential candidacy that every American deserved the same excellent medical care he got. I’ve always believed that his statement, with which I very much agree, is what brought out the long knives to end his brief political career.”
After co-pays and deductibles, “I still can’t afford” it, a reader writes, a pain point stemming from insulin’s patent: “Important for the story and often neglected is that the researchers who discovered insulin were reluctant to patent their process on grounds of medical ethics. Anyone suffering from the high cost of insulin needs to know that its discoverers at least wanted to ensure that it be widely available at low cost.”
Our colleague Steve Katz, MoJo’s publisher, told me after I ran our centennial piece last week that his son, Noah, who is diabetic, advocates for insulin justice. In a letter Steve shared with me that he’d written to thank a diabetes camp his family went to years ago, Steve summed up the tangible impact of support systems that “probably saved my son’s life. Noah was diagnosed with Type 1 [that] summer [and] we could see that it wasn’t about camp per se…It was about the fact that, being there, Noah had to face directly that he really did have this disease, it wasn’t going to go away, and his life had changed forever…Each [counselor] would sit with him at a meal or hang out with him in the ‘shot line’ where kids get their blood sugars checked and insulin dosed, and give their story of how it was for them and how it is and will be for him. And Noah saw that he could survive this. The experience was literally transformative.”
Steve wrote these words eight years ago. Reading it now makes me look ahead: In eight more years, on the 108th anniversary of insulin, will readers tell us again how you’ve survived not just diabetes itself but the staggering costs of its treatment in the wealthiest country in the world? As another reader tells us, “We should not need a coupon or ‘program’ to” stay alive.
Happy 100th.
Keep stories coming to [email protected]

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Lawmakers from at least 20 different states will take part in a “week of action” in favor of federal voting rights bills, beginning with a rally in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
Throughout the week, these state legislators will meet with federal senators and push them to forego an August recess in order to pass those bills.
“We came to Washington, D.C. to demand action and draw the nation’s eyes to the fight for the freedom to vote,” Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said. “Now, we are heartened to welcome over 100 state legislators from across the country to share their stories and call on Congress to save our country by passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.”
Texas state Democratic lawmakers, attempting to stop Republicans from passing restrictive rules on voting rights in the state, prevented a quorum in their state legislature (and thus preventing the bill from getting passed) by fleeing to Washington, D.C., early last month.
Many of the state lawmakers coming to Washington this week are also from states that are planning to pass or have already passed restrictive voting rights laws of their own. According to the Brennan Law Center, 18 states have passed 30 such laws in the past year alone.
The efforts to convince federal lawmakers to defend voting rights is being organized by Declaration for American Democracy, a nonprofit described by The Washington Post as “a coalition of activist groups supporting the For the People Act.”
Although Democrats control both houses of Congress, legislation like the For the People Act has been obstructed by a Senate filibuster. And while many Democrats have called to end this Senate rule, conservative members of their party, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), have so far refused to alter or end the filibuster in order to protect voters’ rights.
Manchin said on CNN over the weekend that he supports “open, fair and secure elections.” But he also expressed misgivings over the full text of the For the People Act, arguing it would “divide our country further,” in spite of polls showing that a majority of voters across all political ideologies back its contents.
Rep. Martinez Fischer rejected Senator Manchin’s refusal to ditch the filibuster in order to protect the right to vote.
“No Senate rule or tradition should come before our rights,” the Texas state lawmaker said.
Although Manchin has been a main obstacle in passing a federal voting rights bill, the pressure campaign by Texas Democrats might be having an impact. Last Wednesday, it was reported that Manchin was part of talks inside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-New York) offices, where he and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) were seen working together to craft a compromise bill.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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The start of the January 6 commission is a good time to pause and ask ourselves: What would a reasonable process look like after the attempted coup?
Those of us who are horrified by Donald Trump’s experiment with making himself a dictator should acknowledge that these processes are political trials — we need to be honest. Had the crowd sacked Congress, and held it, what would Trump have done to the Democrats? As a president, he threatened repeatedly to put Nancy Pelosi on trial, and to lock up Hillary Clinton. Had he been kept in power by an insurrection against an election result, he would have a debt to his supporters, and it would be Democrats who would now be on trial.
The difference between democratic leaders and dictators is not whether they put their opponents on trial (it is legitimate to do so in some cases when those opponents have attempted a coup) but how the trials are held — above all, whether they are fair.
The most celebrated example of a political trial in history is the Nuremberg trials at the end of World War II. In his compendious study of political justice over the last 2,000 years, the distinguished jurist Otto Kirchheimer acknowledged that the tribunal was, in a sense, victor’s justice. The defendants accused of war crimes included high-profile members of Hitler’s regime: Rudolf von Hess, his deputy leader and Julius Streicher, Hitler’s chief antisemitic journalist. No Allied generals or politicians were on trial.
The difference between a political trial and a mere propaganda exercise, as Kirchheimer explained it, was this: In a fair political trial, the judge is prepared to accept the defendant’s story. The judge does not “mortgage” his or her “freedom in advance.” They are calm, they are objective, they listen to the defendant’s case.
In the main Nuremberg trial, three of the 24 accused (Hjalmar Schacht, Franz von Papen and Hans Fritzsche) were acquitted. It was a political trial, but not the quick judicial lynching which would have followed if Hitler had won. The justice shown to the accused was slow and careful. It showed the different standards between democracy and fascism.
In an ordinary political trial, part of the way you establish fairness is by giving the decision-making power to people who are theoretically independent of politics — judges. But of course, in a process such as this, the commission has to be undertaken by political representatives. That significantly limits the ability of Democrats to make this process look fair.
For the far right outlet Breitbart, the fact that people were arrested shows that for the first time in U.S. history, the country has “political prisoners.” (This is, of course, fundamentally inaccurate. Political imprisonment, overwhelmingly targeting leftist organizers, has long been a standard feature of U.S. incarceration.) Taking his cue from the far right, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy proposed a slate of Republican members who had voted to overturn the presidential election results. He wanted his candidates to frustrate the commission at every turn. House Speaker Pelosi vetoed that maneuver, but has been left dependent on a narrow band of anti-insurrection Republicans. The pro-Trump Republicans are trying to say that these won’t be fair hearings; the Democrats are trying as hard as they can to prove the opposite.
A fair hearing is not just about the decision reached by judges, it is also about the approach of those people prosecuting the charge. The best-known single piece of reporting on a political trial is Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, written after Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi who managed the logistics involved in the mass deportations of Jews to extermination camps, was captured by Israeli agents in 1960 and charged with war crimes.
Arendt treated this as the last of the Nuremberg trials and insisted on the righteousness of Eichmann’s prosecution. She argued that the judge had been scrupulously fair. But her account is critical of the prosecutor who, she insisted, neglected to prove Eichmann’s guilt in his emphasis on defending the politics of Eichmann’s captors. The prosecutor’s opening speech listed for several days the crimes suffered by the Jews over 3,000 years, starting with the Bible and the Egyptian pharaohs. “It is not an individual that is in this book,” he said, “but antisemitism throughout history.”
In other words, the prosecutor neglected his responsibility to use the trial as a way of educating the audience watching in their homes on the injustices that had been committed. This is the approach that should be taken, when it comes to dealing with the events of January 6 in legal terms. The commission is a chance to educate the public about what truly happened and why — a process which is useful for illuminating both the larger forces and specific circumstances that prompted the mob violence at the Capitol.
The likes of the American Conservative insist that there is simply no need either for the commission or for trials: the worst crime committed when the crowd sacked the Capitol was simply “trespass.” The first days of the January 6 commission show how hard Democrats have been working to prove the case that this was something much more sinister.
We can see, in the moves that preceded the launch of the January 6 commission, and in the selection of evidence so far (including the choice of opening with the testimony of police officers — usually subjects of endless Republican goodwill), that both left and right understood how difficult it will be for Democrats to break through the partisanship that accompanied Trump’s two impeachments. Both of those cases saw majority support among blue voters and the rejection of them by most Republicans.
The fact that even after January 6 — after the killings, after all the nooses and zip ties — 55 percent of Trump voters still describe what happened at the Capitol as “defending freedom,” shows how hard the challenge is going to be to break through the partisan cynicism that still protects Trump and his movement. It also shows the grip that an authoritarian leader can maintain over much of the populace, even after exiting the halls of power.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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The crisis of homelessness, already disastrous before March 2020, has been aggravated by the widespread unemployment, evictions and shelter closures resulting from the pandemic. The COVID-19 recession dealt enormous damage to the most precarious layers of the working class, and the July 31 expiration of the federal eviction moratorium promises to inflict yet more destitution. According to some projections, COVID will eventually produce homelessness rates double those of 2008’s Great Recession — with disproportionate impacts on people of color. Compounding the issue are disasters like the fires attributed to climate change that have struck the West Coast, which can rapidly render large populations unhoused and destroy already sparse housing stock. Individual causes of homelessness vary, yet, in all cases, the catalyst of the crisis has been the severe nationwide deficit of affordable housing and social services.
These compounding breakdowns have compelled local governments to explore alternative means of addressing homelessness. Some have extended a measure of tolerance toward select street camps, tacitly accepting their presence, and, on occasion, supplying basic provisions and services. At the same time, authorities have warmed to the concept of “sanctioned encampments”: small-scale communities of tiny homes, fenced-in tent cities or other unconventional shelters that make services and infrastructure available to residents, usually administrated by a public agency or nonprofit.
It’s true that such projects and policies have offered genuine (if marginal) relief, but the sanctioned encampment model is founded on restrictions that can replicate the same shortcomings that limit the effectiveness of traditional shelters. Just as concerning, local governments have been able to point to sanctioned camps as proof of their benevolence, while, outside camp borders, they pursue the same punitive methods they have long favored. Criminalization, punishment and forcible displacement (a.k.a. “sweeps”) are many authorities’ preferred means of appeasing businesses and homeowning constituents who find unhoused people distasteful, a nuisance or a threat to profits. However, these practices can generate public controversy and organized resistance. Sanctioned encampments can represent a way to thread this needle: doing something to placate homeless advocates, while maintaining social control of unhoused people.
Sanctioned encampments might appear at first glance to represent a reasonably humane middle route between guaranteed housing and full-blown rugged individualism. They can house (though some would say “warehouse”) people with relative speed, at low cost. The intentions of those who institute and operate them can be sincere and beneficent. However, in some contexts, we may find more nuanced motivations behind local governments’ rapid embrace of the model.
Half-Measures and “Business as Usual”
In Martin v. Boise, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that an Idaho anti-street camping ordinance was unconstitutional, given that campers lacked any alternative for sheltering themselves. The decision, which is applicable to nine Western states, theoretically debars punishment for sleeping outdoors. Martin’s precedent might open up cities with similar criminalization measures to lawsuits — if they provide no alternative shelter. Some municipalities now find themselves in need of a way to mitigate the risk of legal action, without turning to costlier (though, to their credit, far and away the most effective) solutions: e.g., guaranteed or affordable housing, rent assistance and eviction protections, and integrated supportive social goods like mental health treatment.
Even putting aside their utility as legal cover, sanctioned encampments do not represent a truly viable alternative. A 2019 report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Office of Policy Development and Research shows that unhoused people have valid reasons to prefer their own makeshift encampments to state-furnished shelters or city camps. Shelter restrictions may separate the unhoused from loved ones or pets. Entry and exit times and shelter locations may conflict with routines and work schedules. (In staggering contrast to prevailing stereotypes, between 40 and 60 percent of homeless people are employed.) Shelters may not allow the storage of belongings, or may require moving belongings in and out on a daily basis. There are often preclusive substance abuse policies or behavioral requirements. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals is rampant, particularly in facilities run by religious organizations like the Salvation Army. (Approximately 44 percent of transgender people experiencing homelessness reported mistreatment at a shelter, including harassment, assault or requirements to dress or present as the wrong gender.) Shelters can be perceived as “inhospitable, alienating [and] demeaning,” the HUD report points out. Another analysis of case studies by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty came to conclusions very similar to these.
The sanctioned encampment model is founded on restrictions that can replicate the shortcomings of traditional shelters.This is not to denigrate these organizations categorically; there are plenty of compassionate, effective and well-meaning individuals working in shelters, as well as nonprofits and public agencies. Still, structural issues present themselves, exacerbated by the fact that shelters are chronically underfunded, especially those on the West Coast. More often than not, there are simply not enough beds to meet the mounting crisis. All of the concerns listed above can be true of brick-and-mortar shelters, sanctioned tent or tiny home encampments and other approaches like the provisioning of hotel rooms.
“The likelihood that any sanctioned camp, especially if it’s on government land or receives government funding, will come with barriers is quite high,” Marisa Zapata, the director of Portland State University’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative, told Truthout. “Barriers are especially problematic when people claim they want to support people with serious mental illness (where that includes substance use disorders). We know that these people need the fewest, if any, barriers.”
From the perspective of those living on the street, informal encampments can be comparatively appealing. As the HUD report notes, autonomy, connections and a sense of security draw many people to congregate in these communities. People who stay in encampments may see them as “offering greater safety and protection from police harassment and aggression.” Some camps are rather impressive: HUD also documented examples of democratic structures, weekly meetings and responsibilities, drug use prohibitions and cases wherein “residents have established around-the-clock security patrols and mutually enforced norms and standards for behavior.” It goes without saying that this is not true of every encampment. And of course, people with addictions are also driven to maintain access to drugs, to avoid withdrawal if nothing else. Yet were they to receive adequate treatment and social services to support their recovery, these incentives would diminish.
In light of these factors, which are largely overlooked in public discourse, a preference for informal encampments is in many cases entirely comprehensible. Unsanctioned encampments are not a long-term or ultimately desirable solution — but still, the realities of formal and informal camps are not what might be expected.
“Service-Resistant” Means Open to Punishment
Beyond the barriers to entry that decrease their effectiveness, sanctioned camps also serve as a foil to informal street communities and a point of leverage for state authorities, allowing institutions to label those who are hesitant to enter the sanctioned shelters or camps as “service-resistant.”
Sanctioned camps also serve as a point of leverage for state authorities, allowing institutions to label those who are hesitant to enter the sanctioned shelters or camps as “service-resistant.”“The consequences of the label ‘service-resistant’ are profound. In public rhetoric, ‘service-resistant’ reinforces a personal fault narrative for why a person is experiencing homelessness,” Zapata said. “The thinking becomes: If this person would just behave or do what they are supposed to, they would have everything they need provided for them. It makes homelessness their own fault and based on their personal shortcomings.… Long-term, these narratives become reasons to cut funding or not support funding mechanisms for affordable housing and supportive services.” So not only does this conception fail to capture the real needs and problems of unhoused individuals, it also undermines effective confrontation of the crisis in the broader scheme.
The seriously unwell, those skeptical of shelters and the simply unlucky individuals whom shelters could not accommodate are forced to conduct their lives in public spaces, subject to authorities’ confrontational tactics. These often include violent displacement, punishment, citation, arrest and property seizure and/or disposal (including medicine, documents, and other items essential to helping the unhoused escape their circumstances). The human rights and best interests of unsheltered people are not the key determinant of city policies, which regularly defer to expensive, cruel and counterproductive encampment sweeps. Rather, as researchers at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty have highlighted, in defending forcible camp clearances and property seizures, governments and courts can adopt legal strategies and interpretations that circumvent unsheltered people’s constitutional protections. The power of the state is deployed to serve the interests of businesses, homeowners and privileged constituents.
These political incentives to dissuade encampments are expressed in legislation and policy. HUD found that, “More than one-third of US cities have adopted camping bans.… Researchers at the University of Denver identified more than 350 anti-homeless ordinances in Colorado’s largest cities. Other approaches [to discouraging camps] include physical modifications to the built or natural environment, such as securing vacant lots and buildings to restrict access, clear-cutting brush that could provide cover for encampments and installing sprinklers in areas where encampments might form.” When they do form, most are regularly “swept,” their residents banished to live somewhere else, likely nearby, where they remain homeless.
The evidence does not support the effectiveness of sweeps as a means of shuttling people into shelters, or even removing encampments, according to a report from the Center for Evidence-Based Solutions to Homelessness. During the pandemic, some city governments did find it within themselves to extend a modicum of compassion to those living on the street by pausing or reducing enforcement actions. (Though plenty still pressed ahead with sweeps, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and extreme winter weather.) Now, it appears that the (partial) reprieve granted to unhoused people during the pandemic is being withdrawn, facilitated in part by the advent of sanctioned camps.
In Portland, Oregon, where the homelessness crisis is especially visible, officials have begun promising to build more sanctioned camps and shelters. Concurrently, authorities resumed their preferred sweep tactics in earnest, alluding to a more “assertive approach.” Sanctioned encampments can provide a kind of political capital for further punitive responses.
“If camps appear and people decline them or other types of shelter, police might suddenly start to make a lot of arrests for trespassing that they might previously overlook,” said Zapata. “In Portland, the impact scoring system for unsanctioned camps might be changed to make it easier to move or sweep people.”
While some cities have already declared housing a human right, it’s not operative beyond nominal declarations and symbolic gestures.Criminalization proceeds apace, while the city makes gestures of appeasement toward the city’s vocal homeless advocates, which include organizations like Stop the Sweeps PDX coalition and the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP). As Jade Arellano, organizing director at WRAP, told Truthout, “One thing that we’ve noticed at WRAP is that talk of city-sanctioned encampments usually coincides with talk of increased enforcement … these encampments are part of a larger strategy of getting around both legal requirements and public criticism about criminalization.”
In another example from Oregon, the city of Medford’s deputy attorney justified a recent criminalization measure banning “camping” by pointing out the existence of Rogue Retreat, a sanctioned “urban campground” that was established by a nonprofit in July 2020. Camping in greenway areas, by the city’s definition, could mean as little as sleeping on the ground with bedding of any kind. Under the pretense of fire safety, groups of housed citizens vocally backed the measure, which would upgrade camping outdoors from a violation to a Class C misdemeanor, “punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.” Campers in the area described the police’s “adversarial” stance toward those unhoused people who would not or could not find space in Rogue Retreat or similar sanctioned camps.
Los Angeles County has a vast unsheltered population: In January 2020, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) counted over 66,000 people experiencing homelessness in the region. (COVID precluded a population count for 2020-2021; the current number may very well be higher.) LAHSA’s 2021 Housing Inventory documented only around 24,000 shelter beds, almost all of them run by private nonprofits and religious organizations. Making matters worse, thousands of those beds sit empty each night, since, as a result of both underfunding and poor oversight, shelters are plagued with infestations, mold and other maintenance issues.
At the beginning of 2020, around 41,000 of the county’s total population could be found within Los Angeles proper, a 16.1 percent increase from January 2019. (Again, this has likely worsened.) The Los Angeles City Council’s response has been to impose citations for minor “quality-of-life” crimes like drinking in public, among other criminalization measures, forcing people with very few resources to navigate maddening bureaucracies. The Council’s most recent initiative, passed 12-3, will make it illegal to sit, sleep, camp or store property on many public streets and spaces. Attorney and homeless advocate Carol Sobel was quoted in The Los Angeles Times, saying, “If they found people safe places to live that didn’t warehouse them, then they wouldn’t need these ordinances. But they are so focused on making homelessness a criminal matter that they cannot think about positive ways to address this issue.”
As the latest criminalization ordinance moves forward, Los Angeles authorities are also sparring with Judge David O. Carter, who, acting rather boldly, ordered that the city house all residents of its infamous Skid Row by mid-October. The Ninth Circuit Court granted the city a temporary reprieve on appeal. Critics have called Carter’s order undemocratic and broad. Some might say that the decision by a dozen powerful councilmembers to consign tens of thousands of people to punishment and displacement for sleeping outside, mainly because they lack for feasible alternatives, is also rather undemocratic and broad.
Elsewhere in California, two (relatively) ambitious plans to provide another type of sanctioned shelter did not fulfill expectations. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Project Roomkey, part of the state’s COVID response, connected vulnerable people with a place to stay during the pandemic: empty motel rooms. The catch was that, ostensibly for quarantine purposes, participants were mostly forbidden from leaving the room. They were also regularly searched; some described the program as “prison-like.” It’s easy to see why some people might prefer the street. In any case, it was largely a failure, securing only 30 percent of the rooms planned. The more substantial Project Homekey, which gave grants to regional agencies to acquire vacant properties for use as shelter, was stridently opposed at the local level by NIMBYs (those repulsed by the thought of struggling people taking up residence near them). Project Homekey’s success varied across localities, housing about 8,300 people in total across the state. (At the end of 2020, HUD estimated that there were 161,000 unhoused people in California.)
Early in the pandemic, San Francisco Mayor London Breed also faced criticism for failing to utilize the large supply of newly unoccupied hotel rooms — enough, in fact, to shelter every unhoused person in the city. This was well within her already activated emergency powers, and would even be reimbursed up to 75 percent by Federal Emergency Management Agency grants. But it simply couldn’t be done, Breed lamented, citing a constrained budget: “I wish it were that easy to help people … I wish it were that easy to just provide a place for them to be.” As easy as she found it to claim to divert $120 million from the San Francisco Police Department to Black communities while actually increasing police budgets, one would hope. (Although Breed has, responding to pressure, recently proposed more funding for homelessness, whether that will come to fruition remains to be seen.)
Authorities’ hesitant half-measures skirt the fundamental, self-evident truth: that what unhoused people need are homes.These are only a few examples from the West Coast, where the repression can be especially glaring. There are many, many diverse and inventive cruelties throughout the country. In one particularly repellent example, police in Hawaii spent COVID relief funds to patrol a homeless encampment with a robotic dog. Mistreatment of unhoused people is commonplace, and arises in a wide variety of forms — but what all cases have in common is that, had people been housed, they likely would not have been exposed to such abuses.
Rights and Obligations
Some have advocated the institution of a universal “right to shelter” — which, it should be noted, is not the same thing as a right to housing. The latter is functionally nonexistent in the United States; Rep. Cori Bush, recognizing this, has just introduced an Unhoused Bill of Rights in Congress. While some cities have already declared housing a human right, it’s not operative beyond nominal declarations and symbolic gestures.
Though not completely unheard of, instances of even the less comprehensive “right to shelter” are rare and fraught. In Massachusetts, there’s been a “right to shelter” since 1983, but, perversely, it extends only to families — not homeless individuals. New York City actually has a decades-old right to emergency shelter, but it’s proven to be far from a solution, primarily incentivizing the construction of more shelters over permanent housing. Again, half-measures predominate. Still, thanks to tireless advocates, the concepts of meaningful shelter and housing rights are gaining some traction, foregrounded by the Martin decision.
This June, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg endorsed a recognition of both rights in a speech outlining a plan to make “our city [the] first to enact both a legal right to safe shelter and housing.” Sacramento will be able to temporarily hold up its end of the bargain by “organiz[ing] designated tent and tiny home encampments” while permanent housing is, hypothetically, constructed.
He was praised for declaring these intentions. But, as is so often the case in homelessness policy, there were serious caveats: Steinberg also insisted that there be “a parallel obligation for unsheltered people to accept that shelter and housing when it is offered.… Rights and obligations must go together.” He promised that he would open more sanctioned encampments. After that, camping anywhere else will be made illegal.
The Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee sent Steinberg a letter in opposition, saying that his proposal “falls far short of what is necessary … a sham, fundamentally dishonest and misleading.” The obligation to accept will brand those who refuse, no matter how valid their reasoning, as service-resistant — “provid[ing] the basis for coercion, police sweeps, displacement, loss of property and selective legal harassment.” Once more, the “service-resistant” designation enables a power structure to assuage at least some public outcry without altering the mechanisms of injustice.
Authorities’ hesitant half-measures skirt the fundamental, self-evident truth: that what unhoused people need are homes. Unfortunately, whatever their benefits or shortcomings, the resources poured into sanctioned encampments and the shelter system are resources devoted to treating what are ultimately only symptoms — symptoms of a crisis enabled by a miserably threadbare social safety net, and, more broadly, the stark conditions of inequality in the neoliberal era. The full implications of sanctioned camps remain to be seen; as one of the newer developments in homeless policy, there’s been little time for research into the emergent field.
Zapata expressed apprehension about how conditions might shift. “My concern is that as sanctioned camps come, what will city policies be about how to support people who do not or cannot go to a camp? Will sweeps increase? Will alternative shelter models be able to fulfill the needed beds to satisfy Martin v. Boise, and thus allow criminalization to increase? I think these are all open questions right now, and the possibilities of worse outcomes for people experiencing homelessness are real.”
The answer to homelessness is homes, and the proper funding to make them supportive and livable. If we can look past the political mystification, we may see that these are the true remedies to this crisis, and that they are demonstrably effective. Housing is a human right.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Right now, Sha’Carri Richardson should be running toward her Olympic dream, but she’s not because of a harmful drug war practice: drug testing.
In June 2021, Richardson made headlines as one of the fastest women in the United States with her 100-meter sprint performance in the U.S. Olympic Trials. Less than two weeks later, she tested positive for THC, received a one-month suspension from competition, and was later excluded from the U.S. Olympic Team.
While many racial justice and policy advocates were outraged by how Richardson’s positive marijuana test was handled, her experience was just the most visible instance of a deeply rooted practice that has harmed countless people for decades.
For the past 35 years, drug testing has been an essential, yet largely under-examined, pillar of the “war on drugs.” Drug testing was widely adopted following the Drug-Free Workplace Act in 1988 under the false pretense of making workplaces safer and “drug-free.” In reality, these tests do nothing to show current impairment and are used as grounds for termination. They are disproportionately used to deny care and to target, surveil and criminalize Black people.
Richardson’s case reveals a deeper truth — drug testing has become far too pervasive and normalized, even in situations where it is clear that it is not tied to performance or safety. For example, the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) has claimed that marijuana is banned primarily due to pressure from the White House, not because of concerns for athletes’ well-being or integrity in sports. But drug testing wasn’t always a part of our lives and we don’t have to continue to accept it now.
People should never be drug tested for any drug, for any reason, that can lead to punitive consequences, regardless of which drugs they use and why they use them. Even drug testing for safety-sensitive positions, like those involving machine operating or medical procedures, cannot detect on-the-job impairment. Workplace accidents are often associated with stress, fatigue and illness rather than with drug use, and alternative assessment methods, including ongoing performance evaluations or performance-based tests, would more accurately and ethically measure current impairment.
We should channel the outrage we feel about Richardson’s punitive treatment toward the institutions that subject many people to this kind of draconian surveillance every day.
Take the public benefits system, for example. Applicants to the federally established Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are targeted by testing, whether they use drugs or not. Thirteen states authorize drug testing of TANF recipients. In most of those states, a positive drug test means sanctions and losing benefits altogether. These drug testing policies most acutely target Black people, who are disproportionately likely to be sanctioned and disproportionately poor. The impact of these sanctions? Increased risk of hunger, eviction and homelessness, utility shut-off and inadequate health care.
People don’t “fail” drug tests. Drug testing fails us.Within the family regulation system (commonly referred to as the “child welfare system”), many doctors routinely drug test pregnant people and newborns, often without verbal or written consent. Although a drug test cannot indicate how much of a drug someone has used, whether someone is currently impaired or under the influence, or whether any harm has stemmed from that use, a positive drug test can lead to a newborn child being ripped from their parents’ arms despite no evidence of harm to the child. Who are the primary targets of pre- and post-natal drug testing? Black women and their newborns, who by one estimate are 1.5 times more likely to be drug tested than non-Black women. Meanwhile, favorable media representations abound of white middle-class and wealthy parents using marijuana.
The selective use of drug testing in contexts that disproportionately target Black people, particularly poor Black people, while white people openly admit to using marijuana and sing its many benefits, highlights the extreme double standard around drugs, where some of us are trusted to use responsibly and others are portrayed as deviant rulebreakers. People of all races use drugs at similar rates, but enforcement in these areas parallels all tools of the drug war — it’s never about the drug. It’s about the perceived user.
Has drug testing achieved any of the purported goals of reducing drug-related accidents and harm? No, because, as noted earlier, drug testing only detects past use and not current impairment.
Has it decreased overdose deaths? No, criminalization and drug prohibition haven’t made us safer and have instead produced generational trauma and devastation and have fueled an overdose crisis.
Has it connected people with services? No, surveillance and the threat of punishment deter people from seeking care and block people from much-needed nutritional, financial and medical support.
People don’t “fail” drug tests. Drug testing fails us.
We should not accept that the systems that are meant to provide support — like health care and public benefits — are denying care based on drug use and dictating what we can and cannot put into our bodies. This is how insidious the drug war is: It can be used to deny jobs, tear apart families and block public benefits in a time of need.
A different world is possible, and people who use drugs are already envisioning it. Ending drug testing would disrupt the broader web of drug war surveillance, getting us closer to that future: one where we can all be open about our drug use; where people can choose to use drugs for a multitude of reasons, including pleasure; where Black people, people of color and other marginalized people aren’t targeted and punished for real or suspected drug use; where people can access the supports they desire without fear; and where the drug war, in all its forms, is abolished.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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More than 100 state lawmakers from across the United States converged on Washington, D.C. Monday to join Texas Democrats—who fled Austin to block voter suppression legislation—in demanding that the U.S. Senate pass the For the People Act.The sweeping pro-democracy bill was approved by the Democrat-controlled House in March, but it has stalled in the evenly divided Senate. In June, Republican senators blocked debate on the For the People Act, fueling calls for Democrats to abolish the legislative filibuster.The “week of action” featuring state legislators was organized by Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD), a coalition of advocacy groups that supports the For the People Act and last week called on the Senate to delay the recess set to begin Friday until it passes the legislation.CNN reports that organizers are planning “a series of events and meetings with federal lawmakers throughout the week to underscore the urgent need to pass legislation protecting the right to vote before the end of summer and undo anti-voter laws in time for the 2022 midterm elections.”Florida state Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (D-47) told the Washington Post that “I really want to make sure they understand what we’re going through in Florida. If we don’t get this Congress to act, and the Biden administration to put pressure on voting rights, then I’m very worried about the ability of everyday Floridians to have their voices heard in the election process.”Eskamani—whose state was among those that enacted anti-democracy legislation this year in the wake of the 2020 election and lies about voter fraud from former President Donald Trump and other key figures in the GOP that provoked the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol—emphasized the need for “a federal firewall from these state voter suppression activities.”State legislators in 49 states have introduced more than 400 bills with voter suppression provisions during the 2021 legislative sessions, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. At least 18 states have enacted 30 of those laws.In a March analysis, the Brennan Center detailed how the For the People Act—which includes provisions for improving ballot access, boosting election security, limiting the influence of dark money, and strengthening ethics rules—could counteract the GOP-led attacks on voting rights.”The Big Lie has infected nearly every state legislature in the county, giving rise to a calculated and brazen assault on the freedom to vote,” Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-116) told CNN. “Texas has always been a hotbed for the worst anti-voter laws in the country, but this time it’s worse than ever.””We came to Washington, D.C. to demand action and draw the nation’s eyes to the fight for the freedom to vote,” he added. “Now, we are heartened to welcome over 100 state legislators from across the country to share their stories and call on Congress to save our country by passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.”Some of the lawmakers traveling to the nation’s capital repeated DFAD’s declaration last week that “recess can wait.” The coalition’s president, Jana Morgan, has urged Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to delay senators’ vacation and President Joe Biden “to use the full power of the Oval Office to ensure that the For the People Act is signed into law before the end of summer and to not let the Jim Crow filibuster stand in the way.”Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-40) told CNN that “they shouldn’t take a recess. Democracy comes first. My request is, recess can wait. Democracy can’t.”Taddeo focused on redistricting, explaining that “this federal bill would really take the politics out of it, which has been the problem when it comes to the maps. Especially at this juncture that we’re at with redistricting with new numbers coming out from the Census and all of us getting ready for the process in state legislatures.”In a White House readout on Friday, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated their commitment to the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”Recognizing the challenges ahead, the four leaders agreed on the importance of advancing legislation reflecting the priorities and values of those two bills,” the White House said. “The president, vice president, speaker, and senate leader agreed on the moral imperative of passing legislation to protect against voter suppression, electoral subversion, dark money, and partisan gerrymandering, and will continue working together toward that goal urgently.”However, Biden has stopped short of supporting an end to the filibuster, and certain centrists—particularly Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—still stand in the way of giving Democrats the simple majority needed to change the chamber’s rules.

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As much of the world struggles to cope with the pandemic and its impacts, we speak with Dr. Rupa Marya and Raj Patel, co-authors of the new book, Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice, which examines the social and environmental roots of poor health. “Inflammation is the body’s appropriate response to damage, or the threat of damage,” says Marya, a physician and co-founder of the Do No Harm Coalition. “We’re learning that the social structures around us, the environmental, political structures around us, are tuning the immune system to sound out the full range of inflammation.” Patel adds that “capitalism primes bodies … for sickness.”
TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
The highly infectious coronavirus Delta variant is causing huge spikes in cases across the United States and around the world with China struggling to control surging infections and the Philippines preparing for a new, stricter lockdown. The United States is now averaging some 80,000 new COVID cases a day, about six times as many daily cases than a month ago. As much of the world struggles to cope with the pandemic and its impacts, we begin today’s show with the authors of a new book that examines the social and environmental roots of poor health. “Your body is part of a society inflamed,” write the authors. In a minute, we’ll speak with the co-authors of Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice, bestselling author Raj Patel and physician and activist Rupa Marya. But first, this is an animated introduction to their book by Aaron Kierbel.

NARRATOR 1: You wake up one morning with a dry, hacking cough and you have lost your sense of smell. You visit your doctor for a diagnosis. With an x-ray and nasal swab, she diagnosis COVID. The coronavirus infected your body, and your lungs and nerves are now inflamed.
NARRATOR 2: The inflammation sends you to hospital, and when you are in the ICU, you look around and notice a disproportionate number of people of color. In the United States, hospitalization and death rates for people of color are far higher than for white people. You make another kind of diagnosis yourself. This, you observe, is the outcome of structural racism. But how did those structures come to be?
NARRATOR 1: To understand that, we must go back 600 years to a time when a different pestilence spread across the globe, one that continues today and still makes us sick. And it makes us sick in a patterned way, through inflammatory disease which underlies all the leading causes of death in industrialized places.
NARRATOR 2: European colonization transformed the planet. Through slavery, genocide and disease, colonists brought with them a cosmology that changed how people relate to each other and to the living world around them. Those who resisted were set to the flame.
NARRATOR 1: This history lives inside you, whether you know it or not. Since you were conceived, your body has been exposed to the consequences of a world on fire.
NARRATOR 2: The COVID hospital ward and the specific patients who are in its beds look that way because of centuries of attempts to extinguish other kinds of knowledge and civilizations.
NARRATOR 1: If we understand disease with this new kind of diagnosis, the treatment options become radically different. The deep medicine we prescribe to address the inflammation of people and planet has been prescribed by others before us. Rudolf von Virchow and Sitting Bull and Frantz Fanon.
NARRATOR 2: Huda Sha’arawi and B.R. Ambedkar. And Harriet Tubman.
NARRATOR 1: They understood that our modern ills can’t simply be vaccinated away. We need a world rebuilt with care at its heart.
NARRATOR 2: But what does that look like? Many indigenous communities have resisted colonialism by continuing to care for the living world around them. Their care for life protects them inside and out.
NARRATOR 1: Indigenous communities defend the greatest range of biodiversity on the planet and as a result host the most diverse microbiota inside their bodies. These microbes confer protection against inflammatory disease.
NARRATOR 2: When culture isn’t capitalist and isn’t colonized, it can soothe the inflammatory diseases that afflict us and fuel the burning of our planet.
NARRATOR 1: Deep medicine offers new and old stories that connect humans to the teeming microbes in our guts and to the teeming stars in the skies. We offer a glimpse into cosmologies that bring a cooling balm.
NARRATOR 2: To a world, to societies and bodies that are—
BOTH NARRATORS: Inflamed.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the animated introduction by Aaron Kierbel to the book Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice. For more we are joined by the book’s authors.In Austin, Texas, Raj Patel is with us, Research Professor at the University of Texas’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, a Professor in the University’s Department of Nutritional Sciences, and a Research Associate at Rhodes University, South Africa. He is also the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System and the bestselling book The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy.
And in Berkeley, California, we are joined by Dr. Rupa Marya, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where she practices and teaches internal medicine. She is a co-founder of the Do No Harm Coalition, a collective of health workers committed to addressing disease through structural change. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! This is an epic work. Raj, let’s begin with you in Texas. If you can talk about this connection between capitalism and the COVID pandemic?
RAJ PATEL: Thank you, Amy, for having us. For listeners and viewers who are unaware, one of the ways that the modern food system operates is through a sort of legacy of separating humans from the rest of the web of life. Now what that means is that humans feel, under capitalism and particularly under capitalist colonialism, to be free to exploit the world around us. We feel free to be able to do that because the rest of the web of life is just worth less than our profit motive. That is why, for example, 60% of current human infectious diseases come from pathogens that jump from one species to another, and the industrial food system incubates those kinds of diseases.
Now, while the jury is out around COVID, it is certainly the case that we have seen a vast array of diseases coming from the industrial food system. H1N1, for example, in 2009, was one example of a disease that emerged from a food system which is quite happy with treating the rest of the web of life as a disposable resource. And also quite happy in treating the working class as an expendable kind of insulation between the burn of disease and the needs of the rich and the Global North.
Now, when you have a kind of set-up that’s based on this 600-year process of exploitation and colonial domination, then you are preparing the world for pandemics not just of a virus, but also for the consequences of a virus reverberating through societies that are deeply unequal. And so we opened today’s show talking about the climate disasters that are happening around the world. Guess who it is that’s on the front lines of the climate crisis? It’s the same communities that are at the forefront, who have been predominantly exposed to the kinds of narratives, the kinds of exposures that render their body more ready to become susceptible to COVID.
AMY GOODMAN: Which brings us to the title. Dr. Rupa Marya, the title of your book, Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice. Talk about why you called it Inflamed and the kind of work you have been doing that shows the disparities that result from the system that we have.
DR. RUPA MARYA: Thank you for having us, Amy. I’m happy to be speaking to you today from the occupied territory of Huichin. You can see the West Berkeley Shellmound, which our friends are trying to save, the oldest inhabited site here in the Bay Area. So, inflammation is the body’s appropriate response to damage, or the threat of damage. And the leading cause of death and illness in industrialized places are all inflammatory disease, whether we’re talking about cardiovascular disease or cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, even suicide. All of these diseases have inflammation as a part of their process.
And we are learning now that the immune system is being primed for inflammatory disease through not just genetics, which is what we’ve been thinking about for many years. You know,, why do some people get autoimmune disease? Why do some people get inflammatory bowel disease? Why do some people get cancer? But now we are learning that the social structures around us, the environmental and political structures around us, are tuning the immune system to sound out the full range of inflammation.
And unfortunately, medical education is steeped in the same Enlightenment errors that Raj was just speaking of, separating humans from the web of life, separating civilization from nature. These kinds of false dichotomies and errors are a part of medical education today. And so while it is helpful that we are talking about structural determinants of health as we’re looking at the glaring disparities with the COVID crisis, we don’t learn in medicine where these structures came from or how to dismantle them. And that is really what deep medicine is. If we want to be making an impact on these structures, if we want to be making an impact on the health outcomes, we have to start working with communities who are already identifying the problems and leading the change. And so that is a brief summary of what we are doing in this book.
AMY GOODMAN: And if you can talk about the pandemic, Raj Patel, providing this kind of autopsy, of racial disparities in the country, the profound injustices in the system? In just a few moments, we will be linking up with Congressmember Cori Bush, who has been sleeping on the steps of the Capitol with a number of other people protesting the fact that the eviction moratorium was allowed to expire, threatening millions of people in this country. This, in the midst of a pandemic that is surging in this country.
RAJ PATEL: As we approach this expiration, one of the big ideas that we have in the book is particularly the way that capitalism primes bodies, as Rupa was saying, for sickness. And this expiration is going to drive more people into despair. But we already have the technologies of oppression that are geared towards sending the working class to despair.
Things like payday loans, for example. If you take out a payday loan for $300, you might end up paying upwards of $800, an APR of 400%. And we know that the stress of needing to repay these loans is causing ill health. To the extent that if we were to ban things like payday loans, then in the United States the suicide rate would fall by 2.1% and the fatal drug poisoning rate would drop by 8.9%. Now, that kind of ongoing stress is just a normal feature of the way that capitalism operates in the United States. And this moment of triggering the lapse of the eviction moratorium is going to drive yet more people to the abyss. But Rupa has been working, for example, in San Francisco, working with physicians and protesting with them around some of the eviction-related issues and the issues around the unhoused there.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Rupa Marya, if you can talk about that work for just about 30 seconds. Then we’re going to go to break. We’re going to go to Congressmember Cori Bush, who has been sleeping out on the Capitol steps for the last few days to protest this eviction moratorium expiring. And then we’re going to come back to the two of you.
DR. RUPA MARYA: The Do No Harm Coalition has been working very closely with the Coalition on Homelessness, with POOR Magazine, formerly unhoused folks, poor people who have solutions to the manufactured crisis of homelessness here. While London Breed has been celebrated for her response to COVID, over 8,000 people were left on the streets of San Francisco in the midst of wildfire and the pandemic. And so this is really a health crisis, and it’s an unnecessary health crisis. It’s going to jeopardize—it already is jeopardizing the health of so many people. So I applaud Cori Bush and her Bill of Rights for unhoused people. We need to look to formally unhoused and unhoused people for these solutions and follow their lead.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to her right now, but we hope you both will stay by. Dr. Rupa Marya and Raj Patel, co-authors of Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice. When we come back, we will go to the U.S. Capitol steps to speak with Congressmember Cori Bush, where she and others have been sleeping outside on the steps since Friday night to protest the house adjourning without passing another extension of the eviction moratorium for renters. This is the Democrat-controlled House. Stay with us.
[Music Break]
AMY GOODMAN: “I Don’t Want To Get Arrested” by Rupa & the April Fishes, whose music was described by the legendary Gil Scott-Heron as liberation music. Yes, that is our guest that we just spoke with, Dr. Rupa Marya.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) is facing criticism for joking about hitting the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) with the speaker’s gavel if Republicans win the House in the 2022 midterm elections.
During a GOP fundraiser Saturday, Republican members of the Tennessee congressional delegation presented McCarthy with an oversized gavel, symbolic of the one Pelosi uses in her role as speaker. The Republican leader responded by inviting those in attendance to come to Washington, D.C., in 2023, should the GOP win control of the House next year.
“I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel,” McCarthy said. “It will be hard not to hit her with it.”
A spokesperson for Pelosi said that McCarthy’s comments were out of line, especially in light of the threats on the speaker’s life during the attack on the Capitol building on January 6, when a mob in support of former President Donald Trump threatened to upend the certification of the 2020 election results.
“A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a #January6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting,” tweeted Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill.
Democrats have demanded an apology from McCarthy.
“America has suffered enough violence around politics. @GOPLeader McCarthy is now a would-be assailant of @SpeakerPelosi,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California) said. “He needs to resign.”
“There’s nothing funny about hitting Speaker Pelosi or any woman,” agreed Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pennsylvania). “Leader McCarthy is a failed leader. He continues to reminds [sic] us that nothing will get in the way of his ambitions — including joking about hitting a woman to excite his small base.”
“It’s no wonder Kevin McCarthy can’t control his caucus,” opined Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Massachusetts). “He can’t even control his own misogyny. His language about assaulting @SpeakerPelosi is despicable and certainly undeserving of a gavel.”
Notably, federal law makes it a crime to “knowingly and willfully” make threats to any individual who is part of the line of succession to the office of the president. Pelosi, as speaker of the House, is second in line. McCarthy is unlikely to face severe repercussions for his comments over the weekend, but his words will likely inflame the far right base of supporters, which the Republican Party has done little to quell in the months since the attacks on January 6.
Tensions between Pelosi and McCarthy have escalated in recent weeks over the January 6 commission. McCarthy sought to name individuals to that commission that had spread false narratives of what happened on that day (including wrongly placing blame on the speaker for the violence that occurred), prompting Pelosi to reject those picks. In response, McCarthy withdrew all of his nominations in protest, forcing Pelosi to name Republicans to serve on it.
Republicans are hopeful that McCarthy can lead his party to take control of the House in the 2022 midterm races next year. Typically, the opposition party to a new president performs well in the first midterms, but polling suggests it could be difficult this time around for the Republican leader to become the next Speaker of the House.
An Economist/YouGov poll conducted in late July found that both political parties are under water when it comes to their approval ratings among the American electorate. However, whereas Democrats have a net rating of -8 points, Republicans’ net rating is far worse, at -22 points, the poll found.
A poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that these viewpoints could translate into an upset win for Democrats in 2022, if the trends hold true between now and then. Asked who they preferred to win the House next year, 49 percent of respondents in that poll, conducted in late May, said they wanted Democrats to stay in power, while only 40 percent said they hoped Republicans would win.
In spite of those odds, it’s possible Republicans could wrest control of the House from Democrats without even needing to court more voters than they did in 2020. An analysis from a Democratic-aligned data firm called TargetSmart last week found that Republicans could pick up between six to 13 seats by gerrymandering political maps in four southern states alone.

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