FIGHTING FOR BREATH BY A DYING SEA

By David Bacon
Sierra Magazine, January/February 2018


IMPERIAL VALLEY, CA – 18AUGUST17 – At the edge of the Salton Sea, in Salton City, the salts dissolved in the sea’s water leave a dry crust on the soil as the sea dries up and the edge recedes. On the hardpan are dead fish, left behind as the water recedes. Copyright David Bacon

Jacqueline is seven years old. “I feel really bad because I can’t do anything for her,” Maria Pozar says. “Even the doctor says he can’t do anything – that she’s suffering from the dust in the air. Most of the children in North Shore have this problem. He just says not to let them play outside.”

The children of North Shore are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, whose sudden illnesses warn of a greater, life-threatening disaster to come. That disaster is the rapidly receding waters of the Salton Sea. As more and more playa – the sea’s mud shoreline – emerges from the water and dries out, fine particles get swept up by the wind and coat everything in its path, including children’s noses.

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CCDS Statement on Puerto Rico

Deliver Aid to Puerto Rico Now, Remove All Tariffs and Fees!

Puerto Rico is suffering a humanitarian crisis of historic proportions. Hurricanes Maria and Irma left the people of the island without electricity, cell phone connections, clean water, food, medicines, and other items necessary for basic survival. Many communities remain isolated due to destroyed infrastructure. There have been an estimated 400 deaths , and that figure is certain to rise as infections spread from pathogens released by the destruction and the lack of potable water.

Now, over a month after the hurricane, Puerto Ricans are still without basic needs. Federal aid to these American citizens has been criminally slow and inadequate. The neglect of Puerto Ricans today rivals the mistreatment of African Americans in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. There is clearly a racist policy of discrimination in disaster relief. The U.S. Congress has passed a $36 billion disaster relief act but only a portion of that will go to Puerto Rico.

Cuba, which has a long history of international solidarity, offered aid for Puerto Rico but the Trump Administration refused it. Congress lifted the Jones Act for ten days, a token gesture to allow ships under foreign flag to carry goods from US mainland ports to San Juan. Much of those goods remain on the docks unable to reach the devastated communities. The scale of devastation demands a massive response to ferry life-saving goods inland. Hospitals cannot operate due to lack of power and lack of clean water. FEMA must mobilize the resources to address these problems.

The conditions which left Puerto Rico so vulnerable to this disaster are rooted in its colonial status. Years of tax relief schemes for U.S. businesses operating on the island devastated the economy before the hurricanes hit. Puerto Rico is burdened by $123 billion in bond commitments and unfunded pension obligations to banks and speculators

The Puerto Rican economy also suffers from the import fees imposed by the Jones Act. These fees hike the prices for Puerto Rican consumers that no other US resident pays. This practice has resulted in long term economic damage. The Puerto Rican government has sought to declare bankruptcy but was blocked by the federal government. A board was imposed to oversee the budget and force the colony to pay its bond payments by cutting social and infrastructure spending – a Federal collection agency for hedge funds and Wall Street speculators.

CCDS declares its solidarity with the Puerto Rican people and progressive forces who call upon the US government to demand:

1. Full mobilization of required equipment and supplies to Puerto Rico by FEMA

2. Provision of humanitarian aid, not loans, to rebuild the infrastructure.

3. Cancellation of the Puerto Rico debt.

4. Support the protections and rights for maritime workers codified in the Jones Act and remove all tariffs, fees, taxes, customs, and import fees imposed on Puerto Rico by the Jones Act.

10/27/17

The Single-Payer Party? Democrats Shift Left on Health Care

Allison Miller checking a patient’s blood pressure during free health screenings in Los Angeles in 2012. On Thursday, California’s State Senate approved a preliminary plan for enacting single-payer health care.
David McNew / Getty Images

By ALEXANDER BURNS and JENNIFER MEDINA
New York Times

June 3, 2017 – For years, Republicans savaged Democrats for supporting the Affordable Care Act, branding the law — with some rhetorical license — as a government takeover of health care.

Now, cast out of power in Washington and most state capitals, Democrats and activist leaders seeking political redemption have embraced an unlikely-seeming cause: an actual government takeover of health care.

At rallies and in town hall meetings, and in a collection of blue-state legislatures, liberal Democrats have pressed lawmakers, with growing impatience, to support the creation of a single-payer system, in which the state or federal government would supplant private health insurance with a program of public coverage. And in California on Thursday, the Democrat-controlled State Senate approved a preliminary plan for enacting single-payer system, the first serious attempt to do so there since then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed legislation in 2006 and 2008.

With Republicans in full control of the federal government, there is no prospect that Democrats can put in place a policy of government-guaranteed medicine on the national level in the near future. And fiscal and logistical obstacles may be insurmountable even in solidly liberal states like California and New York.

Yet as Democrats regroup from their 2016 defeat, leaders say the party has plainly shifted well to the left on the issue, setting the stage for a larger battle over the health care system in next year’s congressional elections and the 2020 presidential race. Their liberal base, emboldened by Senator Bernie Sanders’s forceful advocacy of government-backed health care last year, is increasingly unsatisfied with the Affordable Care Act and is demanding more drastic changes to the private health insurance system.

In a sign of shifting sympathies, most House Democrats have now endorsed a single-payer proposal. Party strategists say they expect that the 2020 presidential nominee will embrace a broader version of public health coverage than any Democratic standard-bearer has in decades.

RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association, powerful labor groups that back single-payer care, said the issue had reached a “boiling point” on the left.

Supporters of universal health care, including activists with Ms. DeMoro’s union, repeatedly interrupted speakers at the California Democratic Party’s convention in May, challenging party leaders to embrace socialized medicine. Demonstrators waving signs with single-payer slogans have become a regular feature at town hall meetings hosted by members of Congress.

“There is a cultural shift,” said Ms. DeMoro, who was a prominent backer of Mr. Sanders. “Health care is now seen as something everyone deserves. It’s like a national light went off.” (Continued)

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