Campaign disclosures show Senate Dems in ExxonMobil exposé got almost $333,000

A pair of reports published Tuesday in the wake of a damning exposé featuring secretly recorded ExxonMobil lobbyists further illuminated the fossil fuel giant's efforts to influence powerful centrists in Congress and beyond.

The New Republic's Kate Aronoff revealed that "centrist think tanks are raking in Exxon cash," citing a company report, while HuffPost's Alexander Kaufman reviewed an analysis by the advocacy group Oil Change U.S. of campaign contributions to six Democratic U.S. senators named in Unearthed's June exposé.

The videos from Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.'s investigative journalism arm, feature one current and one former ExxonMobil employee, Keith McCoy and Dan Easley, who thought they were discussing the company's lobbying efforts with a recruitment consultant.

While ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Darren Woods claimed that McCoy and Easley made "disturbing and inaccurate comments about our positions on a variety of issues, including climate change policy, and our interaction with elected officials," the reporting has increased scrutiny of the company's lobbying and finances over the past two weeks.

The Oil Change U.S. analysis focuses on campaign disclosures of six Democratic lawmakers McCoy mentioned: Sens. Chris Coons (Del.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), and Jon Tester (Mont.).

Asked on a May video call which lawmakers ExxonMobil targets, McCoy first named Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He continued:

Joe Manchin, I talk to his office every week. He is the kingmaker on this because he's a Democrat from West Virginia, which is [a] very conservative state… and he's not shy about sort of staking his claim early and completely changing the debate. On the Democrat side we look for the moderates on these issues. So, it's the Manchins. It's the Sinemas. It's the Testers.
…Sen. Coons... has a very close relationship with [President Joe] Biden, so we've been working with his office—as a matter of fact our CEO is talking to him next Tuesday and having those conversations and just teeing it up, and then that way I can start working with his staff to let them know where we are on some of these issues.

The other Republicans McCoy named were Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), John Cornyn (Texas), Steve Daines (Mont.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). He noted that it is easier to have conversations with senators who are up for reelection in 2022—such as Rubio, Kelly, and Hassan—"because they're a captive audience, they know they need you and I need them."

Collin Rees, the senior campaigner at Oil Change U.S. who conducted the new analysis, found that over the past decade, the six Democrats collectively received nearly $333,000 from lobbyists, political action committees (PACs), and lobbying firms affiliated with ExxonMobil.

"This is a story about how lobbyists curry favor, and specifically about how Exxon's current lobbyists have spent decades currying the favor of these six Democrats to position themselves to do things like safeguard fossil fuel subsidies and pare down infrastructure packages," Rees told Kaufman. "Exxon has hired these firms and lobbyists because they've contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to these Democrats, both before and after they were hired by Exxon."

Tester—whose office didn't comment on the story—led the group with $99,783, followed by Sinema ($70,800), Coons ($68,650), Manchin ($64,864), Hassan ($26,699), and Kelly ($1,500).

Kelly, a newcomer to the Senate, doesn't accept corporate PAC money—which his spokesperson highlighted Tuesday, telling HuffPost that he "has not met with the individual in the original Exxon video, and hasn't spoken with anyone from this company in the Senate."

Hassan's spokesperson said "the video only says that Sen. Hassan is up for reelection... it isn't for her support of their policies but simply because she is up for reelection," while spokespeople for Sinema and Coons told Kaufman that the analysis' totals are "inaccurate" and "incredibly misleading."

"To the Exxon 11—here's your chance to show that you stand with the people who elected you, not Big Oil."
—Janet Redman, Greenpeace USA

An ExxonMobil spokesperson said the company "complies with all federal and state regulations and lobbying laws," and has "a responsibility to our customers, employees, communities, and shareholders to represent their interests in public policy discussions that impact our business."

Echoing Woods' statement earlier this month in response to the exposé, the spokesperson added that McCoy's recorded remarks "do not represent the company's position on a variety of issues, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials."

Janet Redman, Greenpeace USA Climate Campaign director, said Tuesday in a statement responding to the analysis that the six Democratic senators "can say they aren't influenced by Big Oil, but those are empty words until they prove it."

"To gain back the public trust, the Exxon 11—and especially the six Democrats who accepted money from Exxon—must commit to no more meetings with fossil fuel companies while they craft the infrastructure and reconciliation bills," Redman continued.

"They must also stop taking $15 billion out of the pockets of hard working Americans and giving it to fossil fuel companies in the form of subsidies," she added. "To the Exxon 11—here's your chance to show that you stand with the people who elected you, not Big Oil."

Meanwhile, The New Republic report began by highlighting that Brookings Institution executive vice president Darrell M. West criticized Unearthed's exposé in a blog post. As Aronoff wrote:

West didn't mention that Brookings received $100,000 from ExxonMobil last year, according to the oil company's own disclosures. He also didn't mention that, in parts of the transcript Unearthed did not publish but which they subsequently provided to The New Republic, Brookings is mentioned explicitly by McCoy as one of two think tanks his company is "actively involved in."

Pointing to previous reviews by researcher Connor Gibson, Aronoff noted that Brookings got $250,000 from ExxonMobil in 2019, $250,000 in 2018, $240,000 in 2017, and $380,000 in 2016.

A Brookings spokesperson pointed to the institution's research independence guidelines and said that "Exxon has made no direct contributions to support specific scholars or specific research projects, and its funding is not directed toward Brookings's carbon tax or climate change related research."

The other think tank McCoy mentioned is the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which last year got $175,000 in general support funding and $500,000 for its Securing Our Future Capital Campaign.

A CSIS communications officer told Aronoff that no one there dealt with McCoy and that "we have not had any discussions with ExxonMobil concerning a carbon tax." However, the officer added that "we routinely invite Exxon, other oil and gas companies, and other companies more generally to our conferences and events. Exxon representatives attend these events. In that sense, we communicate with them."

Other recipients of money from ExxonMobil, according to the "Public Information and Policy Research" section of its 2020 Worldwide Giving Report (pdf), include the American Enterprise Institute ($100,000), Bipartisan Policy Center ($200,000), Council on Foreign Relations' Corporate Program ($100,000), and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation ($250,000).

An ExxonMobil spokesperson repeated Woods' claim that McCoy's comments don't reflect the company's positions, acknowledged that Woods is on CSIS's board of trustees, and said: "AEI, BPC, Brookings, and CSIS are known for their collaborative approach and assembling a diversity of views to develop and research domestic and global policies on a variety of issues. We support those efforts."

Aronoff wrote that "how you interpret this set of facts depends on how you think about financial incentives and corporate giving. ExxonMobil, at the end of the day, is a company; presumably, it is not pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars a year into centrist think tanks for fun."

"The oil giant already maintains an impressive official lobbying operation, and donates generously to politicians," she noted. "But by funding the institutions that help define ideas about what constitutes a reasonable climate debate, the company may be exerting more influence over public discourse than the public realizes."

'Wake Up Call': Rapidly Thawing Permafrost Threatens Trans-Alaska Pipeline

Alaska's thawing permafrost is undermining the supports that hold up an elevated section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, putting in danger the structural integrity of one of the world's largest oil pipelines.

In a worst-case scenario, a rupture of the pipeline would result in an oil spill in a delicate and remote landscape where it would be extremely difficult to clean up.

"This is a wake-up call," said Carl Weimer, of Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit pipeline watchdog group based in Bellingham, Washington. "The implications of this speak to the pipeline's integrity and the effect climate change is having on pipeline safety in general."

A slope where an 810-foot long section of the pipeline is secured has started to slip due to the melting permafrost, in turn, causing the braces holding this section of the pipeline to twist and bend.

According to NBC News, the pipeline supports have been damaged by "slope creep" caused by thawing permafrost, records, and interviews with officials involved with managing the pipeline show.

To combat the problem, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources has approved the use of about 100 thermosyphons — tubes that suck heat out of the permafrost – to keep the frozen slope in place and prevent further damage to the pipeline's support structure.

"The proposed project is integral to the protection of the pipeline," according to the department's November 2020 analysis.

There is some concern in using these cooling tubes – They have never been used as a defensive safeguard once a slope has begun to slide, and the permafrost is already thawing.

Feedback Loop

The Arctic and Alaska are heating twice as fast as the rest of the globe because of global warming. And global warming is driving the thawing of permafrost that the oil industry must keep frozen to maintain the infrastructure that allows it to extract more of the fossil fuels that cause the warming.

Permafrost is ground that has remained completely frozen for at least two years straight and is found beneath nearly 85 percent of Alaska. In the last few decades, permafrost temperatures there have warmed as much as 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The state's average temperature is projected to increase 2 to 4 degrees more by the middle of the century, and a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change projects that with every 2-degree increase in temperature, 1.5 million square miles of permafrost could be lost to thawing.

Common Dreams reported in 2019 that the melting of Alaska's permafrost is rapidly accelerating:

"The northernmost point on the planet is heating up more quickly than any other region in the world. The reason for this warming is ice–albedo feedback: as ice melts it opens up land and sea to the sun, which then absorb more heat that would have been bounced off by the ice, leading to more warming. It's a vicious circle of warmth that's changing the environment at the north pole.
"In Alaska, the crisis led this year to the warmest spring on record for the state; one city, Akiak, may turn into an island due to swelling riverbanks and erosion exacerbated by thawing permafrost and ice melt. Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Research Center scientist Susan Natali told The Guardian that what's happening in Akiak is just an indicator of the danger posed to Alaska by the climate crisis.
"The changes are really accelerating in Alaska," said Natali."

The Trans-Alaska system was completed in 1977. The 48-inch diameter steel pipeline runs for 800 miles, carrying "hot oil" from America's largest oil reserve in Prudhoe Bay to the port of Valdez. The pipeline is either buried underground or lifted above the surface in an attempt to prevent the permafrost from melting.

Assassins of Haiti President Jovenel Moïse reportedly posed as US agents

This is a breaking news story... Check back for possible updates...

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated early Wednesday morning after what initial news reports described as "a group of unidentified people" attacked his home on the outskirts of the nation's capital of Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's First Lady, Martine Moïse, was reportedly hospitalized after suffering bullet wounds in the attack, which the Haitian Embassy in Canada confirmed on Twitter.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph "said he was now in charge of the country," France 24 reported.

In a statement, Joseph called the attack a "hateful, inhumane, and barbaric act."

"A group of unidentified individuals, some of them speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state," the prime minister said. "The country's security situation is under the control of the Haitian police and the armed forces of Haiti."

The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that "the assailants claimed to be agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to videos taken by people in the area of the president's home."

The newspaper continued:

On the videos, someone with an American accent is heard saying in English over a megaphone, "DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down."
Sources said the assailants, one of whom spoke in English with an American accent, were not with the DEA.
"These were mercenaries," a high-ranking Haitian government official said.

In an appearance on Democracy Now! Wednesday morning, Haiti Liberté journalist Kim Ives said that while it is not yet clear who was behind the killing, "clearly this was a fairly sophisticated operation."

The assassination came amid widespread street protests against the Moïse government, which has faced accusations of corruption and rampant abuses of power. Moïse, who was backed by the United States, dissolved the Haitian parliament early last year and has been ruling by decree ever since.

"Even before the unrest, the president did not have a wide public mandate," the New York Times noted. "He won the 2016 election with just under 600,000 votes in a country of 11 million. Critics accused him of becoming more autocratic as he pressed ahead with an aggressive agenda that included rewriting the country's Constitution. Among the provisions he was pushing for was one that would grant Haiti's leader immunity for any actions while in office."

Study details how Trump unleashed 'outright slaughter' of wolves in Wisconsin

A new study published Monday estimates Wisconsin lost as much as a third of its gray wolf population after the Trump administration stripped federal protections for the animals and the state allowed for a public wolf hunt widely decried as being "divorced from science and ethical norms."

The February hunt, panned (pdf) by wildlife advocates as "an outright slaughter," killed 218 wolves—already far past the quota the state had set. But over 100 additional wolf deaths were the result of "cryptic poaching," University of Wisconsin–Madison environmental studies scientists found, referring to illegal killings in which hunters hide evidence of their activities.

The majority of those surplus deaths, the researchers estimate, occurred after the Trump administration announced on November 3, 2020 the lifting of endangered species protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states. That shift became effective in January 2021.

According to the study, published in the journal Peerj, between 98 and 105 wolves died since November 2020 "that would have been alive had delisting not occurred."

An optimistic scenario puts the state wolf numbers for April 2021 at between 695 and 751 wolves. That's down from at least 1,034 wolves last year, representing a decrease of 27–33% in one year.

That decline, the researchers said, is at clear odds with Wisconsin's stated goal of the hunt "to allow for a sustainable harvest that neither increases nor decreases the state's wolf population."

"Although the [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources] is aiming for a stable population, we estimate the population actually dropped significantly," said co-author Adrian Treves, a professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and director of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at UW–Madison, in a statement.

Cancellation of the state's next hunt, set for November, could allow for the wolf population to rebound in one or two years. Standing in the way of that is Wisconsin's mandate for a wolf hunt in the absence of federal protections, and kill allowances set on shaky scientific ground, according to the researchers.

"Quite simply put, post-delisting, too many wolves are being killed and there is absolutely no justification for it."

Also troublesome is the fact that the state didn't mandate the collection of wolf carcasses for assessing data of wolf ages or detection of alpha females.

Co-author Francisco Santiago-Ávila said the results suggest the lifting of federal protections gave a subtle green light for more killings.

"During these periods, we see an effect on poaching, both reported and cryptic," he said. "Those wolves disappear and you never find them again."

"Additional deaths are caused simply by the policy signal," he said, "and the wolf hunt adds to that."

Citing "the importance of predators in restoring ecosystem health and function," the researchers offer recommendations including, at the federal level, a "protected non-game" classification for wolves. At the state level, authorities "should prove themselves capable of reducing poaching to a stringent minimum for a 5-year post-delisting monitoring period," the study said.

Wildlife advocates have already expressed concern that the wolf population hit seen in Wisconsin could be a harbinger of the fate of wolves in other states unless the Biden administration quickly restores federal protections for the iconic animals.

According to Samantha Bruegger, wildlife coexistence campaigner at WildEarth Guardians, "Quite simply put, post-delisting, too many wolves are being killed and there is absolutely no justification for it. No scientific justification. No ethical justification. No public safety justification. No economic justification."

WildEarth Guardians is among a handful of conservation organizations last month that released guides for laypeople as well as state agency wildlife policymakers to show how to best prioritize "wolf stewardship and a broader vision for conserving species in the face of global climate change and mass extinctions."

"New wolf plans informed by science and ethics are needed now more than ever, as the disastrous winter wolf hunt in Wisconsin showed," said Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, expressing optimism the guides could be tools for "a more hopeful course in states' stewardship of these beloved animals."

Trump unleashed an 'outright slaughter' of wolves in Wisconsin: study

A new study published Monday estimates Wisconsin lost as much as a third of its gray wolf population after the Trump administration stripped federal protections for the animals and the state allowed for a public wolf hunt widely decried as being "divorced from science and ethical norms."

The February hunt, panned (pdf) by wildlife advocates as "an outright slaughter," killed 218 wolves—already far past the quota the state had set. But over 100 additional wolf deaths were the result of "cryptic poaching," University of Wisconsin–Madison environmental studies scientists found, referring to illegal killings in which hunters hide evidence of their activities.

The majority of those surplus deaths, the researchers estimate, occurred after the Trump administration announced on November 3, 2020 the lifting of endangered species protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states. That shift became effective in January 2021.

According to the study, published in the journal Peerj, between 98 and 105 wolves died since November 2020 "that would have been alive had delisting not occurred."

An optimistic scenario puts the state wolf numbers for April 2021 at between 695 and 751 wolves. That's down from at least 1,034 wolves last year, representing a decrease of 27–33% in one year.

That decline, the researchers said, is at clear odds with Wisconsin's stated goal of the hunt "to allow for a sustainable harvest that neither increases nor decreases the state's wolf population."

"Although the [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources] is aiming for a stable population, we estimate the population actually dropped significantly," said co-author Adrian Treves, a professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and director of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at UW–Madison, in a statement.

Cancellation of the state's next hunt, set for November, could allow for the wolf population to rebound in one or two years. Standing in the way of that is Wisconsin's mandate for a wolf hunt in the absence of federal protections, and kill allowances set on shaky scientific ground, according to the researchers.

Also troublesome is the fact that the state didn't mandate the collection of wolf carcasses for assessing data of wolf ages or detection of alpha females.

Co-author Francisco Santiago-Ávila said the results suggest the lifting of federal protections gave a subtle green light for more killings.

"During these periods, we see an effect on poaching, both reported and cryptic," he said. "Those wolves disappear and you never find them again."

"Additional deaths are caused simply by the policy signal," he said, "and the wolf hunt adds to that."

Citing "the importance of predators in restoring ecosystem health and function," the researchers offer recommendations including, at the federal level, a "protected non-game" classification for wolves. At the state level, authorities "should prove themselves capable of reducing poaching to a stringent minimum for a 5-year post-delisting monitoring period," the study said.

Wildlife advocates have already expressed concern that the wolf population hit seen in Wisconsin could be a harbinger of the fate of wolves in other states unless the Biden administration quickly restores federal protections for the iconic animals.

According to Samantha Bruegger, wildlife coexistence campaigner at WildEarth Guardians, "Quite simply put, post-delisting, too many wolves are being killed and there is absolutely no justification for it. No scientific justification. No ethical justification. No public safety justification. No economic justification."

WildEarth Guardians is among a handful of conservation organizations last month that released guides for laypeople as well as state agency wildlife policymakers to show how to best prioritize "wolf stewardship and a broader vision for conserving species in the face of global climate change and mass extinctions."

"New wolf plans informed by science and ethics are needed now more than ever, as the disastrous winter wolf hunt in Wisconsin showed," said Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, expressing optimism the guides could be tools for "a more hopeful course in states' stewardship of these beloved animals."

Supreme Court ruling delivers 'dark, dark day for democracy'

The U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority on Thursday further empowered moneyed interests to manipulate elections through untraceable campaign contributions—dark money—by ruling in favor of two right-wing nonprofit groups who argued that California's donor disclosure requirement violated their First Amendment rights.

The Thomas More Law Center, a Christian legal advocacy organization, and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a libertarian group funded by billionaire Charles Koch, challenged a California requirement that nonprofits identify their contributors in their state tax filings. The groups asserted that forcing such disclosures restricted their freedom of association.

Writing for the court's conservative majority in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta (pdf), Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that "California's blanket demand" for disclosure "is facially unconstitutional."

"When it comes to the freedom of association, the protections of the First Amendment are triggered not only by actual restrictions on an individual's ability to join with others to further shared goals," Roberts wrote. "The risk of a chilling effect on association is enough."

The nonprofits were supported by an unusual array of groups including the ACLU, the libertarian Cato Institute, the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, the right-wing Institute for Justice, and the NAACP.

Liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan dissented. "Today's analysis marks reporting and disclosure requirements with a bull's-eye," wrote Sotomayor. "Regulated entities who wish to avoid their obligations can do so by vaguely waving toward First Amendment 'privacy concerns.'"


Some observers asserted that Thursday's Supreme Court ruling was the latest in a chain of decisions favoring moneyed interests at the expense of democracy in the name of the First Amendment. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the court affirmed that money in the form of unlimited campaign donations is free speech; in Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta, the justices ruled that dark money is free association.

As Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) president Noah Bookbinder noted Thursday, "even in Citizens United, the Supreme Court said all that money in politics was okay because it would all be disclosed."

"But the court now says there is a right to donor privacy which, make no mistake, will mean more dark money in politics," he added. "This is bad news."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) weighed in on the ruling, tweeting that "if Citizens United opened the floodgates to corrupting political spending, then this decision breaks the levees. Today's decision further entrenches dark money's hold on our political system and policy—making by dismissing decades of legal precedent—not to mention basic common sense."


Roll Call reports that Democratic lawmakers argued in a brief led by Rep. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) that the ruling shields billionaires, fossil fuel corporations, and other wealthy interests seeking to conceal their secret spending.

"We are now on a clear path to enshrining a constitutional right to anonymous spending in our democracy, and securing an upper hand for dark-money influence in perpetuity," Whitehouse said in a statement.



Whitehouse was also among several Democratic lawmakers who had urged Justice Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from the case, as AFP had run a major advertising campaign in support of her confirmation last year. AFP had also spent heavily to help secure the confirmation of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.


Dark money spending at the federal level topped $1 billion in the 2020 election cycle, which transparency advocates OpenSecrets called "a massive sum driven by an explosion of secret donations boosting Democrats."

According to OpenSecrets:

The billion-dollar sum includes a whopping $660 million in donations from opaque political nonprofits and shell companies to outside groups. In 2020, dark money groups preferred to bankroll closely tied super PACs rather than spend the money themselves—politically active nonprofits that do not disclose their donors reported roughly $88 million in direct election spending to the Federal Election Commission. The remainder of the total is made up of spending on "issue ads" targeting candidates online and on the airwaves.

Also on Thursday, the same six right-wing Supreme Court justices dealt a blow to voting rights by upholding voter suppression policies in Arizona, fueling calls by Democratic lawmakers and progressive advocacy groups for congressional action to pass not only the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but also the Judiciary Act of 2021, which would increase the number of high court justices from nine to 13.

"These decisions today only further underscore the need for Congress to act to preserve democracy by ensuring that every eligible American is able to freely exercise their fundamental right to vote and that billionaires are no longer able to buy elections," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement in which he called the Americans for Prosperity ruling "jaw-dropping."

EPA inaction blamed as US bees suffer second highest colony losses on record

Beekeepers this year in the United States reported the second highest annual loss of managed honey bee colonies since records began in 2006, according to results of a nationwide survey released Wednesday.

The non-profit Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) said in its preliminary analysis that beekeepers—ranging from small backyard keepers to commercial operations—lost 45.5% of their colonies between April 2020 and April 2021. The results are based on a survey of over 3,300 U.S. beekeepers managing a combined 192,384 colonies.

"The worrisome part is we see no progression towards a reduction of losses."

"This year's survey results show that colony losses are still high," said Nathalie Steinhauer, BIP's science coordinator and a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Maryland Department of Entomology, in a statement.

The annual loss is 6.1 percentage points higher than the average loss rate of 39.4% over the last 10 years, the researchers said.

"Though we see fluctuations from year to year," said Steinhauer, "the worrisome part is we see no progression towards a reduction of losses."

During winter beekeepers reported losses of 32.2%—9.6 percentage points higher than last year and 3.9 points higher than the 15-year average. Summer losses came in at 31.1%. While that figure is 0.9 percentage points lower than last year, it's 8.6 points higher than the survey average.

The beekeepers attributed the losses this year to a number of factors, with the parasitic Varroa destructor mite being cited most frequently for winter losses and queen issues most frequent for summer losses. Other causes of colony loss beekeepers cited included starvation, weather, and pesticides.

Continued losses are bad news for food security, as agricultural crops like blueberries and almonds rely on the bees for pollination.

"Beekeepers of all types consistently lose a high number of colonies each year, which puts a heavy burden on many of them to recoup those losses in time for major pollination events like California almonds," said survey co-author Geoffrey Williams, an assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University.

"Colony losses remain elevated," he said, "and this year's annual and summer loss rates are among the highest recorded."

For Jason Davidson, senior food and agriculture campaigner with Friends of the Earth, the survey results were a damning indictment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) failure to act on what conservation advocates call an "insect apocalypse" that was furthered by the Trump administration's pro-pesticide industry decisions.

"These bee losses highlight the disturbing lack of progress from the EPA in the fight to protect pollinators from toxic pesticides," said Davidson, urging the EPA not to "sit on the sidelines while beekeepers experience horrific losses year after year."

"It will take meaningful policy protection and rapid market change to reverse these unsustainable declines in honey bees and to protect the future of our food supply," he added.

BIP's findings were delivered during National Pollinator Week and as Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) reintroduced (pdf) the Saving America's Pollinators Act.

Pollinators, Blumenauer said Wednesday, are "critically important to the food we eat and the environment that sustains us. Unfortunately, our pollinators weren't immune from [former President Donald] Trump's war on science and the environment. In fact, they were a target, as the previous administration actually fought to allow more bee-killing pesticides back on the market."

"Now, it's up to us to work overtime to protect them, which is why I've reintroduced the Saving America's Pollinators Act," he said.

According to Emily Knobbe, policy manager at the Center for Food Safety, which endorsed the legislation, "National Pollinator Week is the perfect time for Rep. Blumenauer to reintroduce his progressive pollinator protection bill—and a perfect time to ask legislators to support this continued dedication to pollinators."

She said the latest version of the bill rightly responds to the decline in pollinator health, pointing to the 80% decline in 20 years of the Eastern Monarch butterfly populations as one example. She also pointed to a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics, as key to pollinator recovery, given their links to pollinator harm.

"Rep. Blumenauer's bill would require not a suspension, but a ban on all neonicotinoid pesticides," wrote Knobbe. "This change to the proposed legislation reflects that the time for requesting incremental action from the EPA has passed."

"Pollinators need swift action in order to survive—banning neonicotinoids would provide a lifeline for these essential species," she said.

'No evidence whatsoever': Left refutes right-wing candidate's election fraud claims -- in Peru

Progressives pushed back forcefully on Tuesday against right-wing Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori's allegations of fraud in Sunday's election, saying there has been no evidence so support such claims.

"There is a clear intention to boycott the popular will," Fujimori asserted at a press conference Monday at which she pointed without evidence to "irregularities" and "signs of fraud."

"Through a tragic pandemic, a dizzying media campaign, and a severe economic crisis, the Peruvian people have mobilized to exercise their right to popular sovereignty. Our obligation now is to defend it." —Progressive International

The allegations of fraud from Keiko Fujimori, a former dictator's daughter, came as voting results showed leftist rival Pedro Castillo with a narrow lead.

A tally of about 95% of the votes showed Castillo with 50.3% of the vote compared to Fujimori's 49.7%.

Fujimori, whom Bloomberg described as a "market favorite," is the daughter of the nation's former dictator, ex-President Alberto Fujimori, currently serving a 25-year sentence in prison for his role in civilian massacres and graft. Keiko Fujimori has said she would pardon her father if elected.

According to The Associated Press:

Voters across Peru, where voting is mandatory, headed to the polls throughout Sunday under a set schedule meant to minimize long lines. No disturbances were reported at voting sites, which even opened in San Miguel del Ene, a remote village in a cocaine-producing area where two weeks ago a massacre ended with 16 people dead.
Pre-election polls indicated the candidates were virtually tied heading into the runoff. In the first round of voting, featuring 18 candidates, neither received more than 20% support and both were strongly opposed by sectors of Peruvian society.

Regional election observers did not report any voting irregularities, as the Guardian noted.

In a statement Tuesday, the Progressive International strongly rejected Fujimori's fraud accusations and urged "patience and vigilance as the final results are counted—especially in the face of fresh attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the democratic process."

"The delegation of the Progressive International has seen no evidence of systemic fraud in the course of the 2021 Peruvian presidential elections. Neither statistical models analyzing results in real time nor our time physical monitoring of this process have revealed any evidence of fraud," the group said.

The impacts of false accusations of election fraud are clear and dangerous, the Progressive International added. The group pointed to examples including U.S. President Donald Trump catalyzing the "revanchist attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to 'stop the steal'" and the 2019 U.S.-backed coup in Bolivia that ousted the democratically elected government of Evo Morales following unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud.

"Through a tragic pandemic, a dizzying media campaign, and a severe economic crisis, the Peruvian people have mobilized to exercise their right to popular sovereignty. Our obligation now is to defend it," the Progressive International said.

David Adler, General Coordinator of the Progressive International, added in a tweet Tuesday that as "Castillo's lead has grown, this grim prediction has come to pass: Keiko Fujimori is now making accusations of 'systematic fraud'—and bringing large parts of the mainstream press with her."

"Our team is clear," Adler wrote. "There is no evidence *whatsoever* to support Keiko's claim."

And, should Castillo emerge victorious, it would be historic, write CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin and Latin American policy expert Leonardo Flores.

His win would "be remarkable not only because he is a leftist teacher who is the son of illiterate peasants and his campaign was grossly outspent by Fujimori, but there was a relentless propaganda attack against him that touched on historical fears of Peru's middle class and elites," Benjamin and Flores wrote.

A Castillo victory would also "represent a huge blow to U.S. interests in the region and an important step towards reactivating Latin American integration. He has promised to withdraw Peru from the Lima Group, an ad hoc committee of countries dedicated to regime change in Venezuela," the pair wrote.

'Primed for pain': New report shows Amazon workers injured more than twice industry average

A new report out Tuesday accuses Amazon of having an "abysmal health and safety record" as a result of its obsession with production speed, pointing to worker injury rates that are far higher than those across the warehouse and shipping industry.

The analysis, Primed for Pain: Amazon's Epidemic of Workplace Injuries, was released by the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), a collection of four labor unions, and comes amid sustained scrutiny over the company's mistreatment of workers amid soaring profits.

The report is based on data Amazon provided to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and covers the four-year period 2017-2020.

"Every day is just go, go, go," said Safiyo Muhamed, a former worker at an Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota for two and a half years who suffered a slipped disc in her back while lifting a heavy tote.

"Amazon wants you to work like a robot, like a machine," she said in a statement. "Every week they rank you, they monitor you through the computer. You have to be so fast. Humans aren't able to do it."

Muhamed's assessment is unsurprising given the report's assertion that "Amazon's obsession with speed in every part of its business has been a key element of its growth strategy."

"But the company's obsession with speed has come at a huge cost for Amazon's workforce," the report states.

Amazon's workforce grew from 208,764 workers in 2017 to 581,624 in 2020. There were injuries at 191 facilities in 2017, and at 658 facilities in 2020.

The data showed "substantially higher rates of workplace injuries" for Amazon workers compared to those in the same industry at other companies, the analysis found.

In 2017, Amazon had 11,883 recordable injuries—about 87% of which were injuries that made workers unable to perform their regular job functions (light duty) or forced them to miss work (lost time).

In 2020, there were 27,178 recordable injuries, 90% of which forced workers into light duty or lost time. That rate is more notable, the report said, because the coronavirus pandemic forced Amazon to make "massive operational changes" in 2020 that likely lessened speed.

While the warehouse industry is notoriously dangerous, the report says that Amazon's injury rate was still well above those of other warehouse employers.

"In all four years for which data are available, Amazon's rate of injuries per 100 warehouse workers is substantially higher than it is for non-Amazon employers in the general warehouse industry," the report states.

In 2020, for example, there were 6.5 injuries per 100 Amazon warehouse workers and just 4.0 injuries per 100 at all other warehouses.

What's more, the injuries suffered by Amazon workers are more severe. Singling out 2020 again, the report says there were 5.9 serious injuries per 100 Amazon workers—a rate that's about 80% higher than those of other warehousing industry employers.

The analysis also compared Amazon with retail e-commerce competitor Walmart. "In 2020, Amazon's overall warehouse injury rate (6.5/100 FTEs) was over twice that of Walmart (3.0), while Amazon's severe injury rate (2.6) was more than two-and-a-half times Walmart's."

SOS gathered further data from a February 2021 survey of 996 Amazon workers across 42 states. Forty-two percent of those queried said a workplace injury caused them to miss work, and roughly 80% of those attributed their injury to production pressure or speed.

Another finding from that survey: 52% said that since the pandemic broke out, Amazon has either terminated, disciplined, or threatened workers who don't keep up with the work pace.

"Workers' accounts of extreme production pressure in 2021 suggest that Amazon's reduced injury rates during Covid may not be sustained as the company returns to its previous practices," the report warns.

That wouldn't be unpredictable, according to the analysis.

"Amazon's abysmal health and safety record is not an accident," the report states. "Rather, it is the predictable outcome of a company that prioritizes speed, growth, and profits over the health and safety of its employees."

"Unfortunately," the publication continues, "this alarming rate of serious workplace injuries is likely to continue unless Amazon is forced by workers and others to take long-term meaningful action to make its workplaces safer."

Eric Frumin, SOC's director of health and safety, didn't mince words in his assessment of Amazon's duty to workers.

"By effectively ignoring the obvious consequences of their own decisions," said Frumin, "Amazon's leaders have failed in their legal, ethical, and moral responsibility to protect their own employees from serious hazards and the very real danger of career-threatening injuries."

Six US tech giants paid almost $100 billion less in taxes from 2011 to 2020 than reported: analysis

Bolstering demands for a global minimum tax to rein in corporations' evasive tactics, a new analysis released Monday showed that a half dozen companies based in the United States paid almost $100 billion less in taxes over the past decade than stated in their annual reports.

Between 2011 and 2020, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet (the owner of Google), Netflix, Apple, and Microsoft—known as the "Silicon Six"—paid roughly $219 billion in income taxes, which amounts to just 3.6% of their more than $6 trillion in total revenue, according to the Fair Tax Foundation. Income tax is paid on profits, not total revenue, and researchers said these tech giants are adept at reducing their tax liabilities by shifting profits to offshore tax havens.

Had the "Silicon Six" paid the prevailing tax rates in the countries in which they operate, they would have given global tax authorities over $149 billion more than they did over the past decade, researchers said. Moreover, not only did these corporate behemoths fork over nearly $150 billion less than would be expected under a stronger international taxation regime, but they also inflated the value of the tax payments they did make.

According to the Fair Tax Foundation, these six companies reported paying approximately $315 billion in income taxes between 2011 and 2020, which is 23.2% on nearly $1.4 trillion in profits. That's significantly higher than the 16.1% rate the companies actually paid over the past decade, however, resulting in a gap of more than $96 billion between tax figures cited in annual financial reports and real contributions to public revenues.

Paul Monaghan, chief executive of the United Kingdom-based nonprofit, said the study provided "solid evidence that substantive tax avoidance is still embedded within many large multinationals and nothing less than a root-and-branch reform of international tax rules will remedy the situation."

None of the six corporations "is an exemplar of responsible tax conduct," the report noted. "However, the degree of irresponsibility and the relative tax contribution made does vary. Amazon has paid just $5.9 billion in income taxes this decade, whilst Apple has paid $100.6 billion and Microsoft has paid $55.3 billion."

Source: Fair Tax Foundation

The Fair Tax Foundation identified Amazon and Facebook as the worst offenders, prompting responses from the two tech giants.

As The Guardian reported:

An Amazon spokesperson disputed the calculations as "extremely misleading."
"Amazon is primarily a retailer where profit margins are low, so comparisons to technology companies with operating profit margins of closer to 50% is not rational," the company said. "Governments write the tax laws and Amazon is doing the very thing they encourage companies to do—paying all taxes due while also investing many billions in creating jobs and infrastructure. Coupled with low margins, this investment will naturally result in a lower cash tax rate."
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[...]
A Facebook spokesman said: "All companies pay tax on their profits, not revenues. Last year we paid $4.23 billion in corporate income taxes globally, and our average effective tax rate over the last 10 years was 20.71%, which is roughly in line with the OECD average."

In response to the corporations' complaints, the Fair Tax Foundation said that the majority of Amazon's profits in the last three years were derived not from retail but from cloud services, where profit margins are between 25-30%. The Fair Tax Foundation also noted that over the past decade, Facebook paid an income tax rate of just 12.7%, resulting in substantially lower contributions than would be expected according to prevailing corporate tax rates as well as the company's effective tax rate.

The Fair Tax Foundation's new analysis comes just weeks after Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig admitted that tax dodging is depriving the U.S. government of as much as $1 trillion or more per year.

Monaghan said that U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's recent push for a global minimum tax on corporations "[lit] a fire beneath the multilateral discussions that have been slowly progressing under the auspices of the OECD."

According to Monaghan, the Biden administration's proposals for global tax reform "would see many of the incentives underpinning profit-shifting to tax havens removed, and would see the very largest multinationals taxed not just on where subsidiary profits are booked, but where real economic value is derived."

"This would have a seismic impact on the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft (who have tax dodging hard-wired into their organizational structure), with billions of additional taxes paid across the world," Monaghan continued.

"We could be on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation moment," he added, "but world leaders at the forthcoming G7 and G20 world leader summits need to grasp the nettle, step up, and engage with the agenda much more positively—the benefit to public services across the world could be immense."

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IG report shows top Trump officials at EPA hid threats of toxic dicamba herbicide

A new report released Monday by a federal oversight agency revealed that before former President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency reapproved use of dicamba in 2018, high-ranking officials in the administration intentionally excluded scientific evidence of certain hazards related to the herbicide, including the risk of widespread drift damage.

"EPA unlawfully promoted the profits of pesticide companies instead of following the law and sound science, putting chemical companies over protecting farmers and the environment."
—George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety

The Office of the Inspector General found that the 2018 decision by the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs to extend registrations for three dicamba products "varied from typical operating procedures."

Specifically, according to the IG report, "the EPA did not conduct the required internal peer reviews of scientific documents," which paved the way for "senior-level changes to or omissions" of research detailing the drift risks of the weed-killer.

While "division-level management review" of pesticide safety documents is typical, staff scientists at the EPA told the IG that senior leaders were "more involved in the 2018 dicamba decision than in other pesticide registration decisions." In addition, "staff felt constrained or muted in sharing their concerns," the government watchdog's report noted.

"Now that the EPA's highly politicized, anti-science approach to fast-tracking use of this harmful pesticide has been fully exposed, the agency should cancel dicamba's recent approval, not try to defend it in court," Stephanie Parent, a senior environmental health attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in response to the new report.

"The EPA knows that anything less is likely to result in yet another summer of damaged fields and lost profits for farmers choosing not to use dicamba," Parent added.

Over the past four years, dicamba products sprayed "over the top" of soybean and cotton crops genetically engineered to resist the herbicide have "caused drift damage to five million acres of soybeans as well as orchards, gardens, trees, and other plants on a scale unprecedented in the history of U.S. agriculture," according to the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Recent research also indicates that dicamba endangers human health. Last year, a team of epidemiologists found that use of the weed-killer can increase the risk of developing numerous cancers.

The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the 2018 approval of three dicamba products sold by agrochemical giants BASF, Corteva, and Monsanto, which was acquired three years ago by the German pharmaceutical and biotech company Bayer.

In response to the lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned the Trump EPA's approval of those three products in June 2020 and ruled that the agency had violated the law when it "substantially understated" the "enormous and unprecedented" amount of damage caused by dicamba herbicides in 2017 and 2018 and "entirely failed to recognize the enormous social cost to farming communities."

And yet, just days before the November presidential election, the Trump EPA rushed to approve new five-year registrations for dicamba products created by Bayer and BASF and extend until 2025 the registration of another dicamba product developed by Syngenta.

As a result, farmers and advocacy groups were once again forced to sue to challenge the approval of the destructive weed-killer. According to the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity, that was the third time the EPA had registered dicamba herbicides, each time with additional restrictions that have failed to curb drift damage.

Referring to the IG evaluation released Monday, George Kimbrell, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, said that "this report admits what we knew already: dicamba's approval was politically tainted. EPA unlawfully promoted the profits of pesticide companies instead of following the law and sound science, putting chemical companies over protecting farmers and the environment."

"The disappointing part," Kimbrell added, "is that EPA nonsensically continues to stand by the plainly political dicamba decision rushed through just days before the 2020 election, just five months after the court's striking down of the 2018 approval."

'A real hotspot': Study shows Arctic warming 3 times faster than rest of earth

Over the past five decades, the Arctic has warmed three times faster than the world as a whole, leading to rapid and widespread melting of ice and other far-reaching consequences that are important not only to local communities and ecosystems but to the fate of life on planet Earth.

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) issued that warning on Thursday in a new report (pdf) that summarizes the latest findings on Arctic change and projections of future transformations under different climate scenarios. The publication of AMAP's report coincides with this week's meeting of the Arctic Council in Reykjavík, Iceland, which brings together policymakers from countries bordering the region.

According to the report, the Arctic's annual mean surface temperature surged by 3.1ºC between 1971 and 2019, compared with a 1ºC rise in the global average during the same time period. Arctic warming has been accompanied by a decrease in snow cover and sea and land ice; an increase in permafrost thaw and rainfall; and an uptick in extreme events.

"The Arctic is a real hotspot for climate warming," Jason Box, a glaciologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, told Agence France-Presse on Thursday.

AMAP stressed that the current transformation of the Arctic environment is adversely affecting the livelihoods and food security of Arctic communities, especially Indigenous ones. Arctic warming also poses risks to unique terrestrial, coastal, and marine ecosystems in the region, some of which are vulnerable to irreversible harm. Moreover, the report emphasized, "changes in the Arctic have global implications," especially if potentially negative feedback loops are triggered.

"No one on Earth is immune to Arctic warming," the report said. "The rapid mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet and other Arctic land ice contributes more to global sea-level rise than does the melting of ice in Antarctica."

Some projections estimate that by 2050, 150 million people worldwide will be displaced from their homes just by rising sea levels.

Without an adequate international effort to slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, that number could be far higher.

According to the report, the latest climate models indicate that "annual mean surface air temperatures in the Arctic will rise to 3.3–10°C above the 1985–2014 average by 2100, depending on the course of future emissions."

"Under most emission scenarios," the report said, "the vast majority" of climate models "project the first instance of a largely sea-ice-free Arctic in September occurring before 2050," and possibly as early as 2040.

Because each fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference, the stakes for adequate climate action are immense.

If the global temperature rises to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the report pointed out, an ice-free Arctic summer is 10 times more likely than if planetary heating is limited to 1.5ºC, the more ambitious target of the Paris agreement.

A growing number of countries, including major economies like the United States and the European Union, have recently pledged to cut GHG emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by the end of this decade on the way to net-zero by midcentury.

Climate justice advocates, meanwhile, have pushed rich countries to go further, and even far less progressive energy advisers have insisted they start by keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

'January 6 was not due to a lack of police funding': Progressives reject Capital Hill security bill

U.S. House Democrats barely passed a $1.9 billion bill to fund security measures on Capitol Hill Thursday after progressive lawmakers objected to the premise of the legislation: that the Capitol Police and other security personnel need additional funding to better protect federal buildings in the wake of the January 6 insurrection.

The Emergency Security Supplemental, which was passed in a 213-212 vote, includes $43.9 million for the Capitol Police, $520.9 million to the National Guard, and $250 million for security improvements on the Capitol grounds.Progressives including Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said a full accounting is needed of how hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump and white supremacists were able to break into the Capitol on January 6 as lawmakers voted to certify the 2020 election results—including whether Capitol Police officers were "complicit" in the attack.

Bowman, who voted "present" on the package," said in a statement that the insurrection happened "not due to lack of police funding" but "because the threat of white supremacy has been enabled to spread and fester throughout our nation—including within law enforcement."

"That is something that still needs to be addressed by Congress and investigated thoroughly," the congressman said, adding that "pouring billions more into policing" will not accomplish the goal of understanding whether some officers helped enable the attackers.

"Instead of responding to crises with calls for more police, our response must be much more holistic," Bowman continued. "I do not support adding additional funding to already bloated police budgets."

As Common Dreams reported in April, an internal agency investigation of the Capitol Police revealed that leaders of the agency ignored critical intelligence ahead of the mob attack, which killed five people. Some officers were also filmed reacting in a friendly manner to the January 6 attackers.

Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined Bowman in voting "present" on the emergency supplemental package, while Bush, Omar, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) all voted "no" on the legislation.

Amira Hassan, political director for Justice Democrats, applauded Bush, Omar, and Pressley for "standing on principle."


The Capitol Police is one of the best-funded law enforcement agencies in the U.S., with a budget last year of $516 million—up 11% from $462 million the previous year.

Omar told Politico Thursday that she was "frankly tired of any time where there is a failure in our system of policing, the first response is for us to give them more money."

The congresswoman said she witnessed "police preparedness and procedures and the lack of political will" to stop the mob during the insurrection.

"It is not clear to me how the supplemental addresses that," she told Politico.

Omar, Pressley, and Bush also said in a joint statement that the bill did not provide sufficient funding for counseling services for the Capitol Police and federal employees who were at the Capitol on January 6.

"The bill also does far too little to address the unspeakable trauma of the countless officers, staff, and support workers who were on site that day—dedicating 50 times more money to the creation of a 'quick reaction force' than it does to counseling," said the lawmakers. "We cannot support this increased funding while many of our communities continue to face police brutality while marching in the streets, and while questions about the disparate response between insurrectionists and those protesting in defense of Black lives go unanswered."

The security supplemental includes $4.4 million for wellness and trauma support compared to $31.1 million for salaries and bonuses.

By pouring more money into the agency responsible for policing Capitol Hill, Bush, Omar, and Pressley said, Congress is prioritizing "more money for a broken system that has long upheld and protected the white supremacist violence we saw on display that day."

"There must be a comprehensive investigation and response to the attack on our Capitol and our democracy, one that addresses the root cause of the insurrection: white supremacy," they said. "We look forward to working towards systemic policy solutions that meet the scale and scope of the crises our communities and our nation face."

This congressman from Hell is a symptom of our rotten political system

Picture a member of congress and what do you see? He's a guy (those in question are usually still men, despite Marjorie Taylor Greene) with an ego the size of the Capitol dome itself, but a strangely fragile and insecure one. He'd run down his grandmother to get his mug on camera and tell the world his profound thoughts, but in private he can be strangely hollow and ignorant when the occasion doesn't call for prefabricated talking points. Imagine Ted Knight without the lovable charm.

That is a caricature, to be sure, but one that in many cases has become uncomfortably close to reality. The cause is not hard to find. For decades, large swathes of the American public have chosen to regard politics as a dirty business, and those who engage in it as scoundrels or buffoons. In so doing, they devalue the institutions that shape the civil society in which they live.

To some degree, this contempt has always been present in American political culture, but it took off in 1981 when Ronald Reagan declared that government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem. Since then, like a chorus of parrots, practically every Republican office holder has squawked this meme in unison. Eventually it became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as a glance at today's GOP will reveal.

Consider the case of Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who is now subject to a lawsuit from a former staffer. The suit claims that the staffer and other office colleagues were "recklessly" infected with coronavirus by the COVID-positive Lamborn, who lied to the House physician about his contact with staff and others. Further, he coerced the staffers not to discuss with anyone their contact with COVID-positive persons. The suit further alleges that the staffer was fired for objecting to all this.

If that weren't enough, the suit also states that Lamborn's son lived rent-free in the basement of the Capitol. Another fascinating revelation is that the congressman uses his staff members as gofers to do personal errands like moving furniture to his vacation home and requiring his employees to help his little Johnny fill in federal employment applications and answer job interview questions. Lamborn appears to view our national Capitol like a Holiday Inn: "Kids stay free!"

Behold the Congressman from Hell: not only a petty tyrant and socially dangerous misanthrope, but a chiseler and hypocrite to boot. By his lights, the federal government is evil, but when it comes to getting your kid on the gravy train, all those rock-ribbed principles about limited government go out the window. In truth, I encountered numerous Republicans during my career in Washington who railed against the federal government and devoted all the ingenuity of Hades to cutting federal benefits, but whose entire adult life was spent on the federal dime.

Lamborn is not the only Republican to endanger his staff and others. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a charter member of the Congressional Knucklehead Caucus), reportedly "berated" staff members for wearing mask.

Another revealing twist in the Doug Lamborn saga is that while lying to the attending physician, he also omitted mentioning that he slept in his congressional office. The practice of bunking in one's office is exactly what Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) warned about last year when she complained the practice risked spreading coronavirus to employees and janitorial staff.

There is another aspect to this beyond the potential of spreading disease. Fifty years ago, the notion of members sleeping in their offices was unheard of. The first time it came to my attention was in the 1980s, when a then-obscure flat-tax zealot named Dick Armey started the practice. He was widely considered a kook for doing it. Now it is all the rage, with upwards of 100 members so engaged, most of them Republicans, including House minority leader Kevin McCarthy.

They typically plead poverty. So do millions of American renters who have faced eviction during the pandemic. But the very Republicans who have no problem with the unauthorized mooching of government space for a free overnight have been very hard-line about denying rental assistance or an eviction moratorium in the various COVID relief bills. Apparently, poverty bites much harder at the $174,000 a year level, the current congressional salary, than it does for an Uber driver or waitress.

There's also the undeniable "Ick!" factor in play. House janitors, many of them women, are obliged to clean the offices late at night, potentially seeing the occupant in various stages of dishabille. As Rep. Speier notes, "During the height of the 'Me Too' movement in the House, there were stories about members in their pajamas talking to staff. It's abnormal to do that."

Beyond that, how mentally healthy is it habitually to sleep in the same cramped office you just spent ten or twelve hours in? Is living like a 22-year-old tech start-up entrepreneur a good look for people whose average age is 58?

Then there are the legal issues. What Lamborn, McCarthy, and the rest of them are doing is misappropriating federal office space for private residential purposes. At the very least, the rent they do not pay should be imputed as income on their federal taxes.

Why even bother to bring up such seemingly trivial matters when there are far bigger issues affecting the country? Simply put, the people I have described are deciding on those issues. Politicians like Lamborn or Gohmert or way too many others I have seen over the years, lack the judgment or ethics to make the proper choices. If we are facing major surgery, we certainly will try to get a specialist, if possible. Even when hiring a plumber, we'd probably read the online reviews. Yet millions of Americans vote out of ignorance or blind partisan loyalty.

The tyrannizing of staffers is another factor that gets too little attention. Many Americans write off congressional staff as hacks or drones and figure that, since they signed up for it, they deserve whatever they get. As constitutional officers, all members of Congress have wide latitude to run their offices as they see fit, and Congress as an institution has been reluctant to intervene. The Congressional Accountability Act (under which the ex-staffer of Lamborn filed the suit) was an attempt at some mitigation of workplace harassment, but it remains mostly toothless.

This issue matters: since the Newt Gingrich speakership, congressional staff has been progressively de-professionalized. House committee staff, where most of the legislative work gets done, has grown smaller in total personnel, even while those same committees load up on additional press secretaries. This means fewer legislative experts and more people like Sean Spicer and Stephen Miller—who, before their illustrious stints with Donald Trump, were congressional press secretaries.

What self-respecting professional would willingly subject himself to humiliating or even dangerous antics on the part of their employer? Increasingly, only young zealots, caught up in the holy crusade of "the movement," would want to work for some bellowing imbecile like Matt Gaetz or Jim Jordan. And even the zealots usually burn out after a few years and leave.

The moral of the story? If these congressmen run their little office fiefdoms like incompetent and half-insane despots, is it any wonder that American politics writ large is broken? And what do you think it would be like if they had unfettered control of the country?

Perhaps the most depressing conclusion is to concede the possibility that these congressmen from hell just might be an accurate reflection of the people who elect them.

Mike Lofgren is a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His books include: "The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government" (2016) and "The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted" (2013).

'It must end': House Dems blast Israel's assault of Gaza and decades of occupation enabled by the US

Shortly after Israeli Defense Forces announced that its air and ground troops "are currently attacking" the Gaza Strip, progressive U.S. lawmakers took to the House floor Thursday evening to discuss the ongoing violence and decades of Israel's government, military, and settler colonists violating the human rights of Palestinians.

The special order hour was organized by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Marie Newman (D-Ill.)—who, along with 23 other House members, sent a letter Wednesday calling on the Biden administration to pressure the Israeli government to "desist from its plans to demolish Palestinian homes in Al-Bustan and evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah," two neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem.

"We must acknowledge and condemn the disproportionate discrimination and treatment that Palestinians face versus others in this region," Pocan declared, challenging those who frame the violence, of this week and the past several decades of Israeli occupation, as "a 'both sides' issue."

Pocan continued:

When serious human rights abuses compound, such as the recent attacks on places of worship like the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the forced removal of people from their homes, most recently in East Jerusalem but ongoing in the West Bank for way too long, the jailing and military court trials for Palestinian children, the dehumanization of the lives of the Palestinians by having roads and entrances that are separate for some people, which all too often looks like a former South Africa, the blockade and open-air prison conditions for the people in Gaza, where food and clean water is often scarce, when those types of human rights abuses occur, we're not just putting the lives of the Palestinians and Israelis at risk, but we're also putting the United States at greater jeopardy.

After laying out some of what the hour would entail, Pocan introduced Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, whose elderly grandmother lives in the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa outside of Jerusalem.

"Palestinians aren't going anywhere, no matter how much money you send to Israel's apartheid government," Tlaib told her colleagues. "If we are to make good on our promises to support equal human rights for all, it is our duty to end the apartheid system that for decades has subjected Palestinians to inhumane treatment and racism, reducing Palestinians to live in utter fear and terror of losing a child, being indefinitely detained or killed because of who they are, and the unequal rights and protections they have under Israeli law. It must end."

The speakers discussed U.S. military aid to Israel, reports that the Biden administration blocked a United Nations Security Council statement calling for a cease-fire earlier this week, and regional history going back to what Palestinians call the Nakba—which means catastrophe in Arabic and refers to the forced mass displacement of Palestinians and creation of Israel in 1948.

Tlaib also criticized recent remarks from U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Llyod Austin, and fellow lawmakers.

"To read the statements from President Biden and Secretary Blinken, General Austin and leaders of both parties, you'd hardly know Palestinians exist at all," she said. "There has been absolutely no recognition of Palestinian humanity. If our own State Department can't even bring itself to acknowledge the killing of Palestinian children as wrong, well, I will say it for the millions of Americans who stand with me against the killing of innocent children no matter their ethnicity or faith."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) similarly took issue with Biden's comments this week. His administration has repeatedly emphasized that "Israel has a right to defend itself" while declining to condemn Israeli attacks that have now killed scores of Palestinians in Gaza since Monday, including over two dozen children.

"The president and many other figures this week stated that Israel has a right to self-defense, and this is a sentiment that is echoed across this body. But do Palestinians have a right to survive?" Ocasio-Cortez asked. "Do we believe that?"

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) recounted hearing bombs go off outside her window as a child, when she lived through a violent civil war in Somalia, before shifting to the current bloodshed in Gaza and Israel—and said that "we must speak out truthfully and forcefully about the seed of this conflict, and about what is happening today."

"The truth is that this is not a conflict between two states. This is not a civil war. It is a conflict where one country—funded and supported by the United States government—continues an illegal military occupation over another group of people," she said, noting that the Nakba led to one of the worst refugee crises in human history.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) asserted that the U.S. providing Israel with $3.8 billion in unconditional U.S. military aid each year "gives a green light to Israel's occupation of Palestine" while Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) suggested that those funds could be better spent on improving lives in U.S. communities in need, like those she represents.

The hour also featured remarks from Reps. André Carson (D-Ind.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

As Muslims in the region and around the world marked the holiday Eid al-Fitr on Thursday, Israel continued its aerial assault of Gaza and prepared for a ground invasion. At least 109 people, including 28 children, have been killed in Gaza since Monday, and over 580 others wounded. At least six Israelis and an Indian national have also been killed, some by rockets that Palestinian militants have fired from Gaza, many of which have been stopped by Israeli air defenses.

Thursday also saw global protests in solidarity with Palestinians against Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip and ethnic cleansing campaign in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Lindsey German of the United Kingdom's Stop the War Coalition said in a statement that "these ongoing Israeli war crimes have the backing of both the U.S. and the U.K. and as a result continue as the world looks on in horror."

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