Surabaya (Indonesia) (AFP) - A 100-year-old Indonesian woman has recovered from coronavirus, making her the country's oldest survivor of the deadly respiratory illness.Kamtim, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was discharged from hospital this week after a month of treatment in her hometown Surabaya, Indonesia's second-biggest city, officials said.East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa said she hoped Kamtim's story would give a boost to at-risk residents -- the illness is especially dangerous for older people and those with chronic conditions."I hope her recovery can motivate el...
Texas is showing us all how the corruption that has overwhelmed the GOP has reached a crisis point, and it's killing people.
President Dwight Eisenhower said, "If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power."
Sadly, Eisenhower's Republican Party is now there: they haven't governed to protect or help the people at the federal or state level since the Reagan Revolution. Today, instead, they simply engage in a corrupt form of political performance art while stuffing their pockets with corporate money.
Today's example: Greg Abbott.
Corrupt Texas Governor Greg Abbott is the poster child for corrupt Republicans' sellout to the fossil fuel industry. And the consequence of that will almost certainly kill hundreds of Texans this summer. But Abbott really, really doesn't want you to be thinking about that.
His latest scam to divert Texans' attention away from this malfeasance is to proudly declare that Texas is asserting its rights under the 10th Amendment to reject oversight or even advice from the federal government.
Texas, like most red states, takes in more federal dollars then they send to Washington DC; instead of merely calling Governor Abbott "corrupt" it's probably also time to call him a "welfare queen," a phrase much beloved of Republicans, at least when they apply it to Black women.
But the real "welfare" that Abbott and the whole collection of corrupt Texas Republicans have been living off for decades is the cash the fossil fuel industry and the billionaires it has created pour down their throats every year by way of campaign contributions and dark money support.
For example, back in 2014 the good citizens of Denton County Texas, sick of air and water pollution from fracking, passed a ballot initiative banning it in their county by over 60%.
Texas' sold-out Republicans immediately responded with House Bill 40, which Governor Abbott enthusiastically signed, that "gives the state exclusive jurisdiction over oil and gas operations and prohibits local municipalities from creating ordinances that ban, limit, or regulate oil and gas operations…"
That's the Texas Republicans' motto: "Screw the people; we just do what's necessary to help out the fossil fuel billionaires who own us."
Back in 1999, then-Governor George W. Bush, himself of fossil-fuel multimillionaire, separated almost all of the Texas power grid from those of neighboring states to avoid federal oversight. He put the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in charge of the largely then-privatized grid.
Bush called it, "The nation's most extensive experiment in electrical deregulation."
It turned out to be an extraordinary expensive and deadly experiment, one that burdens Texas to this day.
As The Wall Street Journal noted a few months ago: "Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state's traditional utilities, according to the Journal's analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration."
That money, of course, went mostly into the pockets of wealthy investors, power company CEOs, and filled the campaign coffers of Texas Republican politicians. It certainly didn't do much to reinforce or make the state's power generation systems or distribution grid more robust.
The result was that this past winter when climate change sent a massive cold wave down into Texas, an estimated 800 people died and the state suffered billions in property damage.
Individual Texans and small businesses are now picking up the lion's share of that tab, of course. It's the Republican way, after all: privatize profits, spread them amongst corrupt Republican politicians, and stick the public with the costs.
Now NOAA is forecasting one of the hottest and driest summers in the history of Texas because of the climate crisis, and already, with temperatures this week only in the 80s and 90s, ERCOT and Abbott have had to ask Texans to keep their air conditioners set above 78 to keep the grid from failing.
Abbott — with much pomp and ceremony — issued an executive order banning private and public entities from requiring masks to protect against a deadly pandemic, but he sure seems fine telling people they can't enjoy their air-conditioning so he can keep the fossil-fuel money flowing into Texas' awesomely corrupt Republican Party.
The prospect of enduring brutal heat and facing the probability of massive power blackouts throughout the summer is not endearing Abbott and his Republican cronies to average Texan voters. As a result, Abbott has come up with a flurry of activity to make it look like he's actually doing something.
As mentioned, he just declared the state "sovereign" under the 10th amendment, as if that were a thing. When he announced it on Twitter, he was buried in ridicule and questions from Texans about what this has to do with making sure their lights don't go out this summer.
Burrowing deeper and deeper into the warm embrace of fossil fuel billionaires, the Texas legislature just passed SB 13, which "would require the State of Texas and its entities (including state pension funds and the state's huge K-12 school endowment) to cut ties with companies that refuse to invest in fossil fuels."
That's right. If your company wants to do business with the state of Texas, or have them invest in your company's stocks or bonds, you damn well better make sure that you're throwing money at the fossil fuel industry or at least own a huge pile of their stock.
As Indivisible Texas notes: "SB 13 creates an intricate system of lists, reports, and oversight of companies that prefer not to transact with fossil fuel companies for whatever reason. This bill actually treats business interactions with certain business sectors in the state as it does enemies of the United States!"
Corruption like this is not a joke; it's already cost Texas ratepayers $28 billion and 800 lives, and more is on the way. And the Texas Republican politicians' response is just to make it harder for Texans to vote.
In state after state, Americans are seeing how the GOP has transformed itself from a legitimate political party into an arm of giant corporations and the billionaires they have created, all while rigging the system to keep themselves in office.
In some states the GOP is mostly dancing with the fossil fuel industry that's destroying our climate and poisoning us; in others it's the health insurance or big drug industries they're helping to bankrupt and addict Americans, or the student or payday loan industries that are destroying the American Dream.
The gun industry is making billions while America experiences daily mass shootings that Republicans refuse to do anything about.
In their wake every year are over 30,000 gun deaths, 500,000 bankruptcies because somebody in the family got sick, young people who can't escape debt for decades if ever, and a landscape littered with destroyed lives and suicides.
None of these things are happening in any other developed nation. But no other developed nation has a major political party that has become a serial killer of its nation's people and governs like the Mafia.
The GOP has become, as Eisenhower warned, "merely a conspiracy to seize power." And the tragic result is a weakened, potholed, polluted and impoverished America.
If the party can't reform itself, it needs to go the way of the Whigs and be put out of its misery. The American people — even voters who consider themselves Republicans — deserve better.
Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
President Joe Biden pressed Vladimir Putin at their summit Wednesday to replace the combustible US-Russian standoff with a more "predictable" relationship between "two great powers" capable of agreeing to disagree.
The two leaders shook hands, striking cautiously positive notes at the elegant Geneva villa chosen for their first summit.
Huge motorcades of limousines, communications equipment and armed guards snaked through the park on the shore of Lake Geneva, disrupting the normally idyllic setting before the pair sat down.
And chaos briefly erupted when a scrum of journalists battled for position, just metres from the two leaders, prompting shoving matches and shouts from security officials.
But Biden quickly got to the point: his desire to take US-Russian relations off their increasingly unstable trajectory, in which Washington accuses the Kremlin of everything from meddling in elections to cyberwarfare.
"It's always better to meet face to face," he told Putin in a book-lined room in the villa, with a globe of the world placed between them.
"We are trying to determine where we have a mutual interest, where we can cooperate, and where we don't (to) establish a predictable and rational way in which we disagree -- two great powers," Biden said.
Putin noted that "a lot of issues" need addressing "at the highest level" and that he hoped the "meeting will be productive."
Biden's apparent offer of an understanding -- if not necessarily a friendly relationship -- went a long way toward what Putin is reportedly seeking: increased respect on the world stage.
The reference to the United States and Russia as "two great powers" was sure to please the Kremlin leader, who has dominated his country for two decades, infuriating the West with invasions of Ukraine and Georgia, and often brutal crushing of political dissent.
Cold War, new problems
Expectations were low for more than a modest thaw in relations.
Illustrating the frostiness, no meal was planned during the scheduled five hours of talks, initially also attended by the two countries' foreign ministers and later by an expanded group of officials.
"There will be no breaking of bread," a senior US official said.
The choice of Geneva recalled the Cold War summit between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the Swiss city in 1985.
The summit villa, encircled with barbed wire, was under intense security. Grey patrol boats cruised along the lake front and heavily-armed camouflaged troops stood guard at a nearby yacht marina.
But in contrast with 1985, tensions are less about strategic nuclear weapons and competing ideologies than what the Biden administration sees as an increasingly rogue regime.
From cyberattacks on American entities and meddling in the last two US presidential elections, to human rights violations and aggression against Ukraine and other European countries, Washington's list of allegations against the Kremlin runs long.
Putin came to the summit arguing that Moscow is simply challenging US hegemony -- part of a bid to promote a so-called "multi-polar" world that has seen Russia draw close with the US's arguably even more powerful adversary China.
In an interview with NBC News, he scoffed at allegations that he had anything to do with cyberattacks or the near-fatal poisoning of one of his last remaining domestic opponents, Alexei Navalny.
Biden, ending an intensive first foreign trip as president, arrived in Geneva after summits with NATO and the European Union in Brussels, and a G7 summit in Britain.
While in Brussels, he said he would detail his "red lines."
"I'm not looking for conflict," he said, but "we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities".
However, Biden, who had previously characterised Putin as a "killer", upgraded the Russian leader to "worthy adversary".
And for all the rhetoric, the White House and Kremlin both say they are open to doing business in a limited way.
Officials point to the recent extension of the New START nuclear arms limitation treaty as an example of successful diplomacy.
According to Russian and US officials, one possible baby step might be a quick reinstatement of the two countries' ambassadors, who returned home this year in response to tensions.
Unlike in 2018, when Biden's predecessor Donald Trump met Putin in Helsinki, there was to be no joint press conference at the end of the summit.
The US side clearly wanted to avoid the optics of having Biden sharing that kind of platform with the Russian president.
In 2018, Trump caused a stir by saying, as Putin stood beside him, that he believed the Kremlin leader over his own intelligence services when it came to accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election bringing Trump to power.
Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts this week came out against the teaching of critical race theory -- and then went down in flames when he tried to explain what it is.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that Ricketts told radio listeners this week that critical race theory was "Marxist" and "really un-American" and then issued a jumbled explanation for it.
"So, the critical race theory -- and I can't think of the author right off the top of my head who wrote about this -- really had a theory that, at the high level, is one that really starts creating those divisions between us about defining who we are based on race and that sort of thing and really not about how to bring us together as Americans rather than — and dividing us and also having a lot of very socialist-type ideas about how that would be implemented in our state," Ricketts said.
In reality, critical race theory looks at various laws and customs and analyzes them through the lens of racial power in the United States.
One classic example of critical race theory at work is criticism of sentencing laws that delivered harsher penalties for possession of crack compared to possession of powder cocaine, even though the two are variants on the same drug. At the time drug sentencing laws were written in the 1980s, Black people were more likely to be arrested for possession of crack than white people, who were more likely to be consumers of cocaine than crack.
Jeannette Jones, an associate professor of history and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, tells the World-Herald that Ricketts's definition of critical race theory is like nothing she's ever read.
"I think most of the people who are using it (the term) now don't even know what it is," she said. "So, when they're asked to define it, they don't even know how to define it."
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