MARCELINE, Haiti — From Chardonnieres and Port-à-Pimentt on the southern coast to Marceline on the western outskirts of Les Cayes, Haiti’s remote outposts have been hard hit by the 7.2 magnitude tremor over the weekend — and many are feeling as if they’ve been forgotten. “People are suffering,” said Edy Jean, 49. “Even if you see people here, it’s just their skin that’s there. “There is no more life,” he added. “There are still people trapped in the woods and underneath the rubble and they can’t get them. They cannot say the amount of lives that have been lost.” Five days after the earthquake,...
The anti-vaxx protest government mandates is in full swing, fueled, and amped by non-stop support from right-leaning commentators and celebrities, various evangelical ministers and what look to be lawsuits by the basketful.
Curiously, the goals of protest seem aimed both at allowing for individual "choice" over mandates, and, well, mandating that the executive orders themselves be declared unconstitutional. Choice for me, no choice for Joe Biden.
Despite thousands of covid-positive tests and 10 departmental death, some 3,000 Los Angeles Police Department employees are planning to seek exemptions from getting the covid vaccine, and a group of police has filed a federal lawsuit against the city's vaccine and mandates, The Los Angeles Times reports. That is being echoed by police groups in San Diego, Chicago and New York in public service jobs, private businesses and even hospitals, says The Washington Post.
The message: I'd rather quit than be told what to do about covid, a political mindset.
There are still some who argue on medical grounds, disabilities, or over misinformation about vaccine safety, but the tool of choice emerging seems to be a claim of religious incongruity.
Though there are variations in the mandates, claiming religious belief can exempt individuals from most mandates. The question is what does that mean?
Religion, The New Legal Battlefield
As CBS News has explored, claims for earnest religious exemption "is new territory for many employers navigating the issue, given how risky a proposition it is to allow unvaccinated employees to mingle with, and possibly infect, colleagues in the workplace."
The big question here: What makes for a vaccine waiver based on religion. In effect, it has become the emerging legal battlefield.
None of the major religions oppose vaccines. Pope Francis has blessed the vaccines, calling getting vaccinated as "an act of love" for one's neighbors. Leaders of all religions in this country and internationally have pleaded for vaccinations in this country and internationally. The Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas, an ardent Trump supporter, told the Associated Press this week that that "there is no credible religious argument" against receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and that he is not offering nor encouraging religious exemptions.
Still, some local congregational leaders have done the opposite, decrying vaccines along with mandates. The Freedom Church in Charlotte, N.C. declared "It is despicable for a business or government agency to force someone to take a vaccine that is unproven, dangerous and not fully tested." Of course, the FDA has reviewed extensive testing and approved the vaccine as safe.
Some have asserted that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine burdens their personal believes because somewhere in its development the company used fetal cell lines developed from aborted fetuses – though that is not true for the far more widely used Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
In Tulsa, Sheridan Church pastor Jackson Lahmeyer, who also owns an real estate investment business, is offering his signature on religious exemption forms from covid vaccines to anyone donating even a dollar to his church for online membership, according to The Washington Post. Experts on religious freedom claims say that most people do not necessarily need a letter from clergy for a religious exemption, but Lahmeyer, who opposes both vaccines and mandates, says it is a way for him to bring the issue to the fore.
So, now cities, states, the federal government, and businesses with more than 100 employees are being told to mandate vaccines. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, they must offer exemptions to individuals with either a disability or "sincerely held" religious belief that prevents them from getting the vaccine.
But we don't know what that means. Declaring oneself a conscientious objector to war, for example, required a whole lot more backup than saying it's what I believe.
Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett without explanation recently struck down an attempt by students at the Indiana University to bypass a vaccine mandate on religious grounds.
Yet, it seems that the legal claim here is that an individual's "sincerely held" religious belief is enough to qualify for waiver. So, now we are to believe that 3,000 LAPD officers all hold the same religious belief?
By contrast, requests for exemption based on medical grounds usually come with a doctor's statement, in this case perhaps showing a known allergy to vaccine components. With belief, this is unclear. An employer must engage in a two-sided dialogue to determine if the worker's request can be met, but then what?
Interviews with experts indicate that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has not given the guidance on how to determine what a sincerely held religious belief is. Employers generally do not push back against employees to claim religious beliefs to skip work on a holy day, for example.
Covid is changing the rules, including the rules of protest. Simply saying, "I believe in God, I can't get vaccinated," won't fly either, one labor lawyer told CBS. United Airlines recently denied several employees' requests for religious exemptions from the airline's vaccine mandate, saying the employees will be placed on unpaid leave.
This waiver for religion makes it is unclear just how hard or soft Biden's requirement for companies is in reality. The government has precedent in ordering vaccines, but has placed enforcement in the hands of OSHA, the industrial safety arm of the Labor Department, rather than departments more directly responsible for health.
Want to know who owns your member of Congress? Just look at how they vote.
For example, this week Representatives Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Scott Peters (D-CA), Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and, on another committee, Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) all voted with 100% of their Republican colleagues to kill the ability of Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
To put this into context, the VA and every insurance company and hospital group in America negotiates prescription drug prices. Only Medicare is forced to pay around $60 billion a year more than they should. Which echoes as higher retail drug prices through our entire healthcare system.
And this time it isn't just about pharmaceuticals. As Rep. Schrader's hometown newspaper, The Oregonian, noted in their headline: "Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon Helps Kill Drug Pricing Bill, Endangering Biden Infrastructure Plan."
It's a safe bet that none of them did it because they were representing the interest of the people in their districts who helped put them in office. A national poll published just last week found:
An 87% majority of voters over age 65 favor allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices... Among Democratic seniors, 89% are in favor, as are 87% of Republican seniors and 81% of independent seniors.
Instead, these Democrats are enthusiastically and publicly representing the interest of the pharmaceutical industry, which, Senator Bernie Sanders notes, "[H]as spent over $4.5 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past 20 years and has hired some 1,200 lobbyists to get Congress to do its bidding."
Americans pay an average of $1500 a year more for prescription drugs than citizens of any other nation. But the crisis isn't just the rip-off that's making Big Pharma executives rich: it's quite literally killing us.
Dr. Nicky J. Mehtani, a resident physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, writes about the pain of having to tell a family that their mother and grandmother has died when the most likely reason was because her patient couldn't afford the heart medication she'd been prescribed.
"[I]n this patient's case, there was no truer underlying cause of death than the blatant unaffordability of her prescription medications," writes Dr. Mehtani.
This is an everyday story all across America. Last year 2.3 million seniors (and 15.5 million people under 65) couldn't afford to pay for doctor-prescribed medication. One in four Americans say they "have difficulty" paying for pharmaceuticals, and one-in-eight "ration" their own pills.
Dr. Mehtani notes that the patient who died in her hospital had a prescription for the heart medications she needed.
"But upon arrival to her pharmacy," Dr. Mehtani writes, "she learned that, despite being insured, one of her heart medications would cost over $200 per month. Though she had $200 in her bank account, she also had eight grandchildren to care for and feed. She figured she could skip a few days of medication and fill the prescription two days later, when she was due to receive her Social Security check.
"But two days without these expensive medications was enough to cause her to have a second heart attack — one that would ultimately take her life and drastically change those of her eight grandchildren, some of whom would later enter the foster care system."
Meanwhile, members of Congress rake in the Big Pharma cash, laughing all the way to the bank as people in their districts cut pills in half and die.
It's easy to dismiss Reps Schrader, Peters, Rice and Murphy as corrupt sellouts and, certainly in this case, the label fits. And it's frankly surprising that they were the only ones who publicly sold out their constituents' grandparents: Big Pharma is throwing money around Congress and on TV ads like a kid with a Super Soaker at the beach.
You've probably by now seen the dueling TV ads from AARP and the pharmaceutical lobby about negotiating Medicare drug prices; the industry is trying to provide cover for the members of Congress who said, "How high?" when the big drug companies said, "Jump!"
But the cancer of money in our politics is much deeper than these four corrupted Democrats (and 100% of the Republicans), and it goes back to a corrupted and sold-out US Supreme Court.
In their 5-4 split 2010 Citizens United decision, they concluded not only that corporations are persons and thus able to exercise their Constitutional right to "free speech" by owning pet politicians but that, because corporations don't have mouths, the form of speech they (and the morbidly rich) can use is money.
That's right: that stuff you have in your pocket is "free speech."
At the time there were five Republican appointees on the Court and four Democratic appointees. Justice John Paul Stevens, a Democratic appointee, wrote the main dissent, noting:
"The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides it… corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. … They are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."
Writing as if he were seeing the "swamp" the Roberts Court's decision left us with today, he added:
"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation. On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to 'hold officials accountable to the people,' and disserve the goal of a public debate that is 'uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.'"
Our problem isn't just a few corrupt, for-sale Democrats; it's pervasive across our political system and mostly because five conservatives on the US Supreme Court chose to corrupt the system to benefit that corporations and billionaires who helped put them on the Court in the first place.
It's why our politics are more polarized than ever before in living memory; corporations and rightwing billionaires are pouring money down the throats of increasingly radicalized Republicans and a few sellout Democrats across the country.
As I document at length in my book The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America, until we overturn these corrupt Court decisions and get money out of politics, every effort to save lives and move this nation forward will face often-insurmountable resistance.
Public health officials are receiving good news as major faith leaders are refusing to offer religious exemptions to vaccine mandates, the AP reports.
Texas megachurch preacher Robert Jeffress — who notoriously said he would vote for Donald Trump over Jesus — said his First Baptist Dallas church would not offer religious exemptions.
"There is no credible religious argument against the vaccines," Jeffress declared.
""Christians who are troubled by the use of a fetal cell line for the testing of the vaccines would also have to abstain from the use of Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Ibuprofen, and other products that used the same cell line if they are sincere in their objection," he explained.
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