Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Jane Addams: Honoring Antiwar Resisters on the 100th Anniv. of WWI’s End

STORY NOVEMBER 12, 2018

This weekend marked 100 years since the armistice that ended World War I. In a speech commemorating the anniversary, French President Emmanuel Macron cautioned against the dangers of nationalism, in comments widely viewed as a rebuke of U.S. President Trump, who has recently identified himself as a “nationalist.” Just before the summit, Macron also called for the formation of a European army that would operate without the United States. Journalist and author Adam Hochschild argues that the 100th anniversary of the war’s end is an opportunity to honor the dissenting voices against the war, including anarchist political activist and writer Emma Goldman, socialist and trade unionist Eugene V. Debs and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jane Addams.

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Trump is waging a war on people with disabilities

Policies the Trump administration has pursued have made it difficult for many disable people to lead independent lives.

Disabled people protest in front of the Senate Finance Committee room hours before a hearing on the latest Republican effort to repeal Obamacare on September 25, 2017 [Reuters/Kevin Lamarque]
Disabled people protest in front of the Senate Finance Committee room hours before a hearing on the latest Republican effort to repeal Obamacare on September 25, 2017 

Three Novembers ago, then-candidate Donald Trump came under fire for mocking a reporter living with arthrogryposis, a condition that limits joint function. It was a harbinger of what was to come for America’s disabled in the Trump era. His administration and representatives of his party in Congress have been dead-set on destroying the lives of disabled Americans for the last two years.

Upon taking office, Trump made repealing and replacing Obamacare, the healthcare insurance law passed under former President Barack Obama, his first congressional priority. This insistence to do away with a law that significantly expanded national healthcare coverage almost left millions of disabled Americans in the dust.

As part of ongoing efforts to repeal Obamacare and cut America’s safety-net, Trump and congressional Republicans wish to undermine Medicaid, the federal health programme for the poor, elderly, disabled and children. The neediest Americans, including many members of the disabled community, use 80 percent of Medicaid’s budgeted services.

To this day, Republicans advocate limiting federal per-capita Medicaid spending. Such cuts would cause states to raise taxes, pay doctors less, limit coverage eligibility and cut back on services. Cuts would bring an end to programmes such as Medicaid-funded personal care attendants. Almost three million disabled Americans use this programme to live, get out of bed, bathe, eat, drive to work and go to sleep.

Medicaid pays for more than half of in-home services in the US. It’s the engine that allows many disabled Americans to live independently. Previous Obamacare repeal attempts could have lead to the unnecessary institutionalisation of millions, condemning them to a life of limited freedom and autonomy. Trump and congressional Republicans could care less, as they clearly demonstrated with multiple attempts to destroy Medicaid and gut civil rights laws.

Last winter, 253 congressional Republicans voted to pass HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, a bill that would alter the enforcement provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA grants civil rights to people with disabilities, ensuring they have equal access to public places and businesses, requiring owners to supply reasonable accommodations. This bill would undermine the ADA, making it more challenging and time intensive to force businesses to accommodate people with disabilities.

The bill would force a disabled person to first file a notice that usually requires counsel, wait 60 days for a response and wait 120 more days to see if progress is made on remedying a violation of the law before the issue can be brought to the courts. It’s intended to prevent frivolous lawsuits against retailers.

However, the Center for American Progress found that a recent uptick in ADA lawsuits is not widespread and it stems from a single law firm. Republicans can easily patch up the law to deter profiteering lawyers while maintaining civil rights protections. But they have chosen to take a drastic measure that would make it even harder for disabled Americans to stand up for their rights.

Members of the Trump administration have also been punishing disabled Americans. Last year, Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded 72 guidance documents that detailed the rights of special needs students. The rescinded documents were created to clarify how federal disability rights law should apply to the nation’s school districts.

Last December, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded two dozen guidance documents including several clarifying the implications of the ADA. By doing so, Sessions undermined an Obama-era guidance preventing unnecessary segregation of settings in workplaces as well as vocation and day programmes.

The guidance warned states that they needed to modify their policies to ensure employment programmes offer people with disabilities opportunities to work in fully integrated settings. Rescinding this guidance does not change the ADA’s mandates, but it can create uncertainty about how the law should be interpreted.

All is not lost in the fight to protect people with disabilities in the United States. Americans have risen up to resist Trump and bring about change. ADAPT activists, for example, played a critical role in the failure of Republicans to repeal Obamacare by staging “die-ins” in US congressional offices.

As the 2018 US congressional midterm elections approach, momentum is with the Democrats to take control of the US House. Democratic chairpersons in critical US House congressional committees are poised to hold President Trump accountable, investigating and deflecting Republican attempts to weaken safety-net programmes like Medicaid.

Undoubtedly, some damage has already been done and we have a very long way to go to create an America that caters to all Americans. Contesting conservative attacks on safety-net programmes and public accommodations will not be enough on their own to achieve this. National and state leaders will also need to take steps to make sure all feel welcome in our country’s department stores, restaurants, schools, bus terminals, subways and workplaces.

The president claims the US is now stronger than ever before, and everybody is doing better. However, this is not the case for millions of vulnerable Americans and low-income families. Trump’s America denies its people healthcare, evicts poor parents and hobbles the disabled.

Hard fought protections and investments are being scaled back and many Americans are feeling that they are being abandoned by their country.

Republicans say they celebrate self-sufficiency. However, now that they are in power, rather than help more Americans get back on their feet and live independent and productive lives, they are gutting consumer safeguards, civil rights regulations and social services.

If Republicans really want more Americans to be truly independent, they should question their ruthless adherence to tax cuts for the super-rich, small government and deregulation. Disabled Americans want to lead independent lives. They want to work, raise a family, and contribute to society like all able-bodied adults. It’s time America gives them the tools and resources to do so.

How many women are there in the US Congress?

History was made in America on Tuesday with women winning more seats in Congress than ever before.

It was the culmination of two years of resistance to President Donald Trump – primarily led by women – following his unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The day after his inauguration, millions of women joined protests against him across the country.

As the mid-term elections approached, Democrats saw a surge of women who wanted to represent the party – a stark contrast to previous years when they appeared reluctant to enter politics.

This led to suggestions that 2018 could become another “Year of the Woman” – a reference to the 1992 elections in which the number of women in Congress nearly doubled.

That jump 26 years ago was put down to a controversy over claims of sexual assault against a Supreme Court nominee – a situation similar to the case of Brett Kavanaugh this year.

So with most of the results in, here’s a closer look at the numbers and what they mean.

In 2016, just over
300 women filed to
run for Congress.
This year, the number
of women candidates
rose to a record 529.
The majority of them
stood as Democrats.
Just under half of them
were chosen to be their
party’s official nominee.
And we now
know that at least
111 of them won.
Added to the 10 sitting female senators not up for election, it means there will be at least 121 women in the next Congress.
Although it represents a big jump, there’s still a huge gender divide.
As results stand,
men are expected
to make up 76% of
Congress overall.
But the 2018 results do show that women candidates are winning across America.
This is where women
were standing for the
House – the lower
chamber of Congress.
This is where they won.
And the women elected this year will help change the face of Congress.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former Bernie Sanders volunteer, is the youngest woman ever to win a seat in Congress.

The 29-year-old, a Bronx native from a Puerto Rican family, overcame a top Democrat to become her party’s nominee for a House seat in New York.

This time last year she was working in a bar in Manhattan.

In a video that launched her campaign, and quickly went viral, she said: “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.”

Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar, 37, is one of two Democrats to become the first Muslim-American women to enter Congress. She won a House seat in Minnesota.

Born in Somalia, Ms Omar and her family fled the country’s civil war in 1991. She arrived in the US as a teenager after spending four years at a refugee camp in Kenya.

She is also the first Somali-American member of Congress.

Speaking after her win, Ms Omar said Minnesota was delivering a clear message by sending a Somali refugee to Congress at a time when President Trump had banned Somalis from entering the country.

Ms Omar will be joined in Congress by Rashida Tlaib, a Muslim woman who won a House seat in Michigan. The 42-year-old is also the first Palestinian-American congresswoman.

Deb Haaland

Deb Haaland, 57, is one of two Democrats to become the first Native American women in Congress.

Ms Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, won a House seat in New Mexico. During the campaign she spoke of her own struggles as a single mother relying on food stamps.

The other Native American woman to be elected is Sharice Davids, a 38-year-old former mixed martial arts fighter. She is also the first openly gay woman to represent Kansas.

In Rebuke of Trump, Democratic Women Help Seize House & 7 Governorships in Historic Midterm

STORY NOVEMBER 07, 2018

In a historic midterm election, Democrats have seized control of the House of Representatives, flipping more than two dozen seats. This gives Democrats subpoena power for the first time since President Donald Trump was elected two years ago. While the Democrats will control the House, the Republicans picked up two more seats in the Senate. The midterms were a groundbreaking election for women. At least 100 women will serve in the U.S. House for the first time in U.S. history, including the first two Native American women and the first two Muslim women.

Will Nevada elect the US’s first female-majority legislature?

After winning record number of primary races, Nevada female candidates set their sights on making history on November 6.

by

A woman holds a sign encouraging voters during the Women's March rally in Las Vegas, Nevada [File: Steve Marcus/Reuters]
A woman holds a sign encouraging voters during the Women’s March rally in Las Vegas, Nevada [File: Steve Marcus/Reuters]

Patricia Ackerman never thought she’d run for office in the US.

A successful business owner by the age of 21, an award-winning actress at the age of 30 and then an FBI agent sent on undercover missions to Russia, Ackerman said she never knew where she was going. “I always had my bags packed,” she told Al Jazeera.

But when Donald Trump was elected US president in 2016, the first-generation American, born to Ukrainian immigrants who both survived imprisonment by the Nazis, knew she had to run.

“It was [because] of the 2016 presidential elections,” she said. “I had no inclination to get into politics prior to it.”

Less than a week before the midterm elections, Ackerman, a Democrat running for Nevada’s State Assembly in the state’s 39th district, now spends her days knocking on people’s doors.

If she, along with several other female hopefuls win, the state may make history, becoming the first in the country to have a female-majority legislature.

Patricia Ackerman, candidate for Nevada’s State Assembly District 39 seat.

“For 70 years, this seat [in the 39th district] has not had a Democrat, let alone a woman,” Ackerman told Al Jazeera.

Vying to represent a conservative district, Ackerman faces an uphill battle against incumbent Jim Wheeler, who caused national outrage in 2013 when he said he would vote for slavery if that was what his constituents wanted.

But women in several other districts have a good shot at either obtaining or keeping their seat on November 6.

‘It can be done’

According to a study by the Reno Gazette, women are favoured to control 27 seats – 19 in the Assembly and eight in the Senate – in the state’s 63-seat legislature. They would still need to pick up five additional seats to obtain the majority but, the newspaper noted, there are several tight key races in both the state senate and assembly that could give women the upper hand.

“We are excited and hopeful to see a women majority in the Nevada State Legislature in 2019,” said Danna Lovell, executive director of Emerge Nevada, an organisation that recruits and trains women who want to run for office. “It can be done, but will take an extraordinary GOTV [Get Out To Vote] effort – which is currently under way! Early voting numbers are up, and enthusiasm is high on both sides. In the end, it will be a close call.”

Lovell said she saw a number of women, including Ackerman, empowered by the Women’s March the day after Trump was elected. This led to a movement where women “pledged to get involved and planned to significantly change the face of politics”, she said.

Lovell noted that Emerge Nevada has seen a fivefold increase in the number of women applying to train with them in 2018 when compared with any previous year.

A woman holds up a sign during the Women’s March rally in Las Vegas, Nevada [File: Steve Marcus/Reuters]

 ‘These women are powerhouses’

About 40 percent of the state’s current legislature is female, and Lovell said women have already made a difference.

According to Lovell, once elected, female legislators introduce and support legislation that focuses on families and women’s rights.

In addition to voting for their representatives, Nevada residents will also decide on a number of ballot questions, including whether to approve a tax exemption on certain feminine hygiene products.

Jordan Tama, a professor at the American University and scholar on US foreign policy and Congress, said the high number of women running this year is not surprising following the #MeToo movement and the Supreme Court nomination that saw Brett Kavanaugh take a seat on the now right-leaning Supreme Court, casting a dark cloud over issues including reproductive rights and access to abortion.

All of the other woman running, all the way down, we see, we realise that these women are powerhouses, they are determined. The community is determined.

PATRICIA ACKERMAN, CANDIDATE FOR NEVADA’S STATE ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 39

He said that with more women serving in office, people can expect a more cooperative leadership style.

“Studies show that with more women in legislature it provides a more collaborative leadership by the elected officials, which is certainly needed today,” he said.

For Ackerman, her journey has not only brought her closer to her community, but to other female candidates wanting to make history in Nevada.

“All of the other woman running, all the way down, we see, we realise that these women are powerhouses, they are determined. The community is determined,” she said.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

LePage orders flags to half-staff, vigils planned in Portland, Rockland

Flags in Maine have been ordered at half-staff as vigils are being planned to honor the eleven victims of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, (while the deaths of two African Americans in Kentucky are ignored… that’s just sad.)

AUGUSTA (AP) — Maine Gov. Paul LePage has ordered United States and state of Maine flags be flown at half-staff in respect for the eleven victims of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.

The Republican governor said Sunday that he and his wife are “deeply saddened by this tragedy, which occurred in a place of worship.”

Police in Portland also said they were boosting patrols around houses of worship. The Maine Council of Churches is holding a vigil on Tuesday evening in Portland at 5:30 p.m. There is another being held in Rockland at 6 p.m. on Monday at Adas Yoshuron Synagogue, 50 Willow St.

Authorities say gunman Robert Bowers made statements about genocide and killing Jewish people.

Bowers is being treated for gunshot wounds and is due in court Monday.

On Saturday, President Donald Trump ordered flags at federal buildings throughout the U.S. to be flown at half-staff in “solemn respect” for the Pittsburgh shooting victims.

WHAT ABOUT THE “WHITES DON’T KILL WHITES” VICTIMS IN KENTUCKY?

Nope.

The life and death of Maddie Linsenmeir

The life and death of Maddie Linsenmeir

Maddie, who died aged 30 in September, and her son AydenMaddie, who died aged 30 in September, and her son Ayden

On 14 October, an obituary about a young woman from a small American town went viral on social media.

It described the life and death of 30-year-old Maddie Linsenmeir, Mum to two-year-old Ayden.

Her sister Kate O’Neill wrote the obituary in a local newspaper. She told the BBC it was to show a human face behind a crisis plaguing America.

After taking a painkiller, at the age of 18, Maddie became addicted, and eventually died from an overdose in Burlington, Vermont.

The love and support her family received when the tribute went viral has been “wonderful”, Kate says, adding: “We hope this goes some way to reducing the social stigma of addiction.”

On Wednesday, President Trump signed a new bill to help tackle the epidemic, but Maddie’s family says the country is failing to support the 2 million Americans addicted to opioids, a class of drug that includes heroin and prescription drugs like painkillers.

Last year, 72,000 people in America died from a drugs overdose, the highest number in history. The sharpest increase were deaths from fentanyl.

Maddie LinseneirMaddie Linsenmeir

“My sister was a beautiful, bright woman. She had wanted to star in Broadway musicals and she had the voice for it. She was exuberant in her love and affection for everyone,” Kate, who is 46 and lives in Philadelphia, says.

Maddie first took what turned out to be a highly addictive painkiller called Oxycontin at a party when she was a teenager.

She quickly became an addict, and in the US, drugs are easy to get hold of. Authorities have seized enough fentanyl to kill every single American.

American doctors widely prescribe opioids for pain management, and pharmaceutical companies are allowed to advertise drugs on television, including in primetime slots such as the Superbowl in 2015.

“Loving someone addicted to drugs is really tough and being addicted to drugs is really hard,” Kate explains.

“Being a drug addict is the same kind of drudgery as normal life – getting up, going to work, paying bills. But it is much harder – you’re trying to get up and get the money for a score.”

‘Very low lows’

In the 12 years between that first pill and her death, Maddie tried many times to get clean.

“Whenever she was using she wanted to end it. Sometimes it would be every couple of months, and she would hit very low lows,” Kate explains.

“She tried so hard, and that’s the thing that people don’t understand – America makes it very hard to get clean.”

Maddie was failed by institutions and systems that should have helped her overcome her addiction, her family says.

Maddie, second from the left, wanted to be a Broadway singerleft to right: sisters Maura, Kate, Maddie, and their mother Maureen

“Any doctor in this country can prescribe highly addictive painkillers, but to prescribe medicine shown to help patients recover, doctors have to get a special waiver.

“It’s very hard to get methadone [a heroin substitute that can help reduce addiction over time], people have to stand in line in a clinic. How can you hold down a job like that?”

Kate says there were many times when her sister drove hours across Vermont state to get a bed in a recovery centre but when she arrived, it was given away or there was none available.

When in jail for minor drug offences, there was no medically assisted treatment.

‘Not a person’

This repetitive cycle was interspersed with moments of great joy and happiness for the family.

“One of my best memories is when she had Ayden – seeing how much she loved him, her singing to him. She would take him for walks to the woods or lake, no matter the weather. It was beautiful, she loved being his Mum,” Kate explains.

Ayden will now be adopted by Kate’s sister Maura and her husband.

Kate says that if Vermont, the state that elected left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders, was unable to help Maddie get clean, then she believes there is currently little hope for the rest of America:

“They failed her and continue to fail addicts.”

She advocates safe injection sites or harm reduction programmes that aim to reduce the negative consequences of drug use, including overdose.

But these programmes are not widely supported by the authorities. “They don’t want to condone people taking drugs,” Kate believes.

Maddie's son Ayden will be adopted by her sisterMaddie’s son Ayden will be adopted by her sister

In September, the Vermont Governor’s opioid council rejected proposals to open a safe injection site. In Vancouver, Canada, opening a safe injection site in 2003 led to fatal overdoses declining by 35% in the surrounding area.

After Maddie’s obituary went viral, Burlington Police chief Brandon del Pozo responded on Facebook thanking the family and writing that he was “tired of arguing with reactionaries” who opposed progressive solutions to addiction.

Kate says people have stopped seeing drug addicts as people.

Describing officials and doctors who visibly changed their attitude to Maddie once they learned about her illness, she says she was routinely shocked by the lack of empathy for addicts:

“Police officers, lawyers, correctional officers – when they found out someone is an addict, they see a junkie, not a person with a disease who is suffering.”

Kate is at pains to point out that although her young, good-looking sister has attracted global attention, that shouldn’t overshadow the plight of the thousands of less photogenic addicts who are also suffering.

“If people feel empathy for Maddie, they should feel that for addicts at their lowest, who may be begging on the streets or injecting under bridges.”

She also wrote the obituary to speak to people working in the system who helped her sister.

“She was touched by individuals who just went above and beyond.

“After he read it, a man sent us a message saying he had been sober 18 years, and he would stay sober that day for Maddie.”