A controversial new drug for ALS could add months to patients' lives – if it actually works
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Hurricane Ian has landed in South Carolina after devastating southwest and central Florida. Ian brought heavy rain, high winds and flooding along South Carolina coast, causing damage in some areas.
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Iranian security forces arrest a woman for eating at restaurant in public without her hijab, family says
Hurricane Ian washed away several portions of the Sanibel Causeway, a series of bridges linking the island to the rest of the state. It will require structural rebuilds, Florida's governor says.
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On Thursday, the House passed a bill aimed at expanding access to mental health services in schools that garnered only one Republican vote, despite the party’s ceaseless scapegoating of mental illness for issues in the U.S.
The Mental Health Matters Act passed 220 to 205 on a largely party line vote, with all 205 “no” votes coming from Republicans. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania) cast the sole Republican “yes” vote.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-California) and supported by the White House, would provide grants for schools to hire more mental health experts and grow their mental health services, especially schools in areas with high need. It would also provide mental health protections to adults with private health insurance and children and staff in Head Start programs, which are aimed at serving low-income children from birth to age 5.
“Educators have been forced to play an outsized role in supporting and responding to students’ mental health needs, leading to increased depression and trauma among educators, their students, and the families and the community,” DeSaulnier said on the need for his bill, per The Hill. “However, our schools do not have the specialized staff necessary to respond to the increased prevalence and complexity of students’ mental health needs.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) took issue with a portion of the bill that punishes employers when employees are denied mental health and substance use benefits and said that the “country would be better off without” the bill.
Experts have said that children’s mental health is in crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on children’s mental health, whether through trauma, loss, or otherwise, leading to a corresponding rise in mental health crises among children, research finds. Pediatric mental health professionals say that legislation aimed at permanently increasing resources for children’s mental health is sorely needed.
Democrats condemned Republicans for voting against the bill. “This afternoon we voted to create more mental health services in schools and 99.5 percent of republicans voted no and told kids to go to hell,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr (D-New Jersey) wrote on Twitter.
Others pointed out that Republicans have spent months, if not years, scapegoating mental health issues as a catch-all for problems like mass shootings — which, in reality, are often spurred by far right radicalization and white supremacist ideology. Indeed, Republicans often dig up supposed concerns about mental health in order to distract from other issues.
After the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, Republicans and the far right scrambled to spread disinformation online about the shooter, pinning the problem on groups they wished to demonize — including trans people, those with mental illnesses and the Democratic Party.
“Well, it’s just tragic what happened down there. We learn something new every day about how can we improve,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said on Fox News after the shooting. He said that there should be a funding influx for “focusing on mental health” in response to the shooting. McCarthy voted against the bill on Thursday.
In reality, Republicans who speak out in favor of mental health funding in response to horrifying mass shootings are likely readying for coming attempts to curtail gun ownership, curb the power of the gun lobby, and, in the case of Uvalde, scrutinize the police for their failure to prevent or act on the shooting.
In other words, political commentators have noted, mental health issues act as a shiny object for Republicans to wave around, a political convenience that allows the party to continue expanding and perpetuating the roots of violence and antipathy.
For instance, Republicans have repeatedly suggested that school shutdowns and remote learning were the real plague on children’s mental health during the pandemic. But the deaths of teachers and caregivers that likely would have resulted from hasty school reopenings would almost certainly have had an equal if not larger toll on children’s mental health.
In the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump claimed that he couldn’t share his tax returns with the public because an IRS audit prevented him from doing so. According to a newly published book, however, this was a lie that Trump deliberately concocted to avoid releasing his taxes.
Every viable nominee for president since Richard Nixon — save for Trump — has shared several years of their tax records with the American public for the purpose of transparency. In 2016, Trump became the first candidate since the 1970s not to do so.
In “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America,” New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman details how Trump and his staff came up with the lie on his plane during the 2016 campaign. Trump contemplated how he could “get [himself] out of this” in a discussion with his then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and his campaign press secretary Hope Hicks, Haberman wrote.
On the plane, “[Trump] leaned back, before snapping up to a sudden thought. ‘Well, you know my taxes are under audit. I always get audited,’ Trump said,” according to an excerpt from the book.
Trump believed that this was the perfect solution, Haberman wrote, as he’d “never not be under audit.”
Later on the campaign trail, Trump would claim that his lawyers had advised him against releasing his taxes, saying that it would be unwise to do so during an audit.
As several fact checks at the time (and in the years since) have pointed out, there is no law that prohibits individuals, including presidential candidates, from sharing their tax returns if they’re under an audit from the IRS. Instead, Trump was likely reluctant to share his tax returns because they’d paint him in a bad light — they could showcase, for example, that he was losing millions of dollars in revenue each year, or that he pays a substantially lower tax rate than most Americans with less wealth do annually.
Indeed, when the billionaire’s taxes eventually leaked in the fall of 2020, they showed that he had paid just $750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017 .
Months after Trump became president, he claimed that the American people no longer cared about his taxes. In reality, polling from his second presidential run in 2020 found that the vast majority of Americans (66 percent) agreed that he “should release his tax returns from earlier years.”
Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.
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U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who appointed a special master to determine which of the documents that the FBI retrieved from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month were privileged — if any — has overruled an order from the special master that sought to clarify Trump’s claims that the classified documents may have been “planted” by the FBI.
Judge Raymond Dearie, who was nominated to be special master by Trump’s legal team and appointed to the position by Cannon earlier this month, had ordered Trump’s lawyers to examine the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) inventory list of documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago and to indicate if they disagreed with what was included — essentially ordering them to explicitly state whether they agreed with Trump’s unfounded claims that documents had been planted by the FBI during the retrieval process.
Trump’s lawyers objected to the order earlier this week. On Thursday, Cannon ruled in their favor, saying that the requirement was unnecessary. This is the first time since Cannon appointed Dearie that she has rejected one of his orders.
That Cannon overturned a decree from the special master who she herself appointed — and sided with a president who appointed her to the role she currently serves — has raised eyebrows, especially since a number of legal experts have concluded that there was no need for a special master in the first place.
Cannon has also extended the timeframe for Dearie to carry out his work as special master — a move that is being celebrated by Trump’s allies, as his legal team’s strategy thus far seems to be to delay the process as much as possible.
The DOJ has reportedly filed a notice of appeal to Cannon’s order, seeking to keep Dearie’s requirements intact and to shorten the timeframe of his work, requesting that it end in November rather than in mid-December.
It’s not yet clear if Cannon’s rejection of the special master’s order will delay the DOJ’s investigation. The Justice Department will still be able to carry out some of its work, as it appealed to a different aspect of Cannon’s order establishing the special master that required them to stop examining the classified documents they retrieved last month.
The DOJ was successful in that appeal, persuading a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court that her order was unnecessary since the classified documents in question were the property of the U.S. government, not Trump.
“[Trump] does not have a possessory interest in the documents at issue, so he does not suffer a cognizable harm if the United States reviews documents he neither owns nor has a personal interest in,” the 11th Circuit Court ruled.
Several legal experts and political observers have denounced Cannon’s latest action on social media.
“Judge Cannon comes to Trump’s rescue, saving him from the Special Master she appointed at his request. She’s basically one of Trump’s lawyers at this point,” political analyst Arieh Kovler said on Twitter.
“Judge Cannon tinkers badly with (and with typos) Judge Dearie’s scheduling order, relieving Trump of obligation to say whether docs were planted, even though she had wanted a clear inventory of what was found,” noted Andrew Weissmann, a former Assistant United States Attorney. “She is such a disgrace.”
“OUTRAGEOUS. Yes, I know I’m shouting,” wrote former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks. “I don’t do it often, but [the order from] Judge Cannon is shocking.”
Historian Jeff Shesol recalls the early days of the space program, when Cold War fears ruled and no one knew if John Glenn would survive America's first orbital flight. Originally broadcast June 2021.
Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade by far right extremists on the Supreme Court this summer, new polling finds that trust in the federal judicial branch, which includes the High Court, is at its lowest level in at least 40 years.
According to a Gallup poll published on Thursday, only 47 percent of Americans say they have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust in the federal judicial branch. This is down 20 points from 2020, and is the lowest amount of confidence that Gallup has recorded since it began measuring confidence in the federal judicial branch in 1972 (though there appears to be a gap between the late ‘70s and ‘90s in which the pollster didn’t measure this particular indicator).
Much of this distrust appears to come from disapproval of the Supreme Court. The poll found that disapproval of the Court is at a record high of 58 percent, while approval is tied with its record low of 40 percent, last seen in 2021.
The disapproval seems to stem directly from the Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion protections in the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling it handed down in June.
Forty-two percent of Americans — also a record high, according to Gallup — think that the Supreme Court is too conservative. For the first time in Gallup’s nearly 30-year history polling this question, the proportion of people who think the Supreme Court is too partisan has exceeded the amount of people who say that the justices’ ideological leanings are “just right.”
The polling follows other findings from Gallup published last month, which demonstrate that approval of the Supreme Court among Democrats has also hit an all-time low at a mere 13 percent.
Gallup’s findings demonstrate the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the decades-old precedent set by Roe establishing the right for pregnant people to decide what to do with their own bodies.
That the decision has hurt the public’s view of the Court is no surprise considering that other polls have found that most Americans think that abortion should be legal in most or all cases — and that the consequences of revoking such a right are dire and life-threatening for many.
Only three months after the Dobbs decision was handed down, abortion bans have already impacted people across the country. Children, sometimes victims of rape or incest, have been rejected for an abortion or have had to travel across state lines for the procedure. Meanwhile, people wishing to get medications for reasons other than an abortion have reported being rejected or having to leap through hoops to get their medication, even if the medication is crucial to keeping them alive.
Previous polls have found that the public is eager for Democrats to act to protect abortion rights. Last month, Pew Research Center found that abortion is now a top priority for registered voters in this fall’s midterm elections.
The Supreme Court also handed down a number of other right-wing decisions in this past session that may be driving distrust in the institution, including limiting federal regulators’ jurisdiction over the climate crisis, striking down a New York law regulating concealed gun carry, threatening Native sovereignty, and more.
The Court’s next session, which starts next week, has the potential to be even more consequential and could threaten the fabric of U.S. democracy, judicial analysis warns. The justices are set to hear Moore v. Harper; their decision in this case could completely undermine voting rights by clearing a path for politicians to nearly unilaterally draw gerrymandered district maps. The Court’s ruling in another upcoming case, Merrill v. Milligan, could potentially allow politicians to draw racially gerrymandered maps that discriminate against Black and Brown voters.
Other cases that the High Court has chosen to hear this session could result in the weakening of the government’s ability to protect the environment, the end of affirmative action and the weakening or end of a law that prevents Native children from being forcibly taken away from their families and tribes.
Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro faces former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Sunday’s presidential election. Lula is a former union leader who held office from 2003 through 2010. He’s running on a leftist platform to uplift Brazil’s poor, preserve the Amazon rainforest and protect Brazil’s Indigenous communities, and is supported by a broad, grassroots alliance, explains Brazilian human rights advocate Maria Luísa Mendonça. Polls show Lula has a strong lead over Bolsonaro, but it is unclear if he will win the majority of the vote needed to avoid a runoff. This comes as Bolsonaro and his party appear to be attempting to prepare to stage a coup if he loses the election, says reporter Michael Fox, former editor of NACLA and host of the new podcast “Brazil on Fire.” Despite fear over a coup, Fox says people in Brazil “are really hopeful that they’re going to see change on Sunday.”TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
We begin today’s show in Brazil, where Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro faced off against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Thursday night in the final debate ahead of Sunday’s presidential election. Polls show Lula has a strong lead over Bolsonaro, but it remains unclear if Lula has enough support to win the 11-way race outright. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote on Sunday, a runoff will be held October 30th.
Lula is a former union leader who served a president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. He’s been running on a platform to reduce inequality, preserve the Amazon rainforest and protect Brazil’s Indigenous communities.
In 2018, he was jailed on trumped-up charges, paving the way for the election of Jair Bolsonaro, a retired military officer who’s often praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship. There is widespread fear in Brazil that Bolsonaro could attempt to stage a coup if he loses the election. Earlier in the campaign, Bolsonaro said, quote, “Only God will remove me [from power]. … The army is on our side. It’s an army that doesn’t accept corruption, doesn’t accept fraud,” he said.
During Thursday night’s debate, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva criticized Bolsonaro’s efforts to keep secret many of his government’s actions, including his handling of the COVID pandemic.
LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I’m going to do something for you. I’m going to make a decree to end your 100-year secrecy, to know why you want to hide so much for 100 years. I’m going to do it. I’m going to make a decree and sign it, to know what this man wants to hide for 100 years. And I’m going to stop here, because I want others to participate in the debate. President, when you show up here, please lie less.
AMY GOODMAN: During Thursday’s debate, Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president, accused Lula, the former president, of lying.
PRESIDENT JAIR BOLSONARO: [translated] The ex-convict says that I decreed the secrecy of my family. Which decree? Give me the decree’s number. He says I delayed the purchase of vaccines. No country in the world bought a vaccine in 2020. Stop lying. When you talk about hunger, I gave 600 reaies in aid to Brazil. You gave little to the poorest. You used the poorest as a way to win votes.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Sunday’s vote in Brazil, we’re joined by two guests. Michael Fox is a freelance journalist based in Brazil, former editor of NACLA and host of the new podcast Brazil on Fire. He’s joining us from São Paulo, Brazil. Here in New York, Maria Luísa Mendonça is the director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil and a visiting scholar at City University of New York Graduate Center.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Maria Luísa Mendonça, let’s begin with you. Talk about what’s at stake in Sunday’s election.
MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: [inaudible] Bolsonaro of having a far-right government that —
AMY GOODMAN: Maria Luísa, if you could begin again? I didn’t catch the beginning of what you said.
MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Yes. Thank you. Yeah, this is a very important election in Brazil, because after four years of having a far-right government represented by Bolsonaro, voters in Brazil are about to send a strong message and say that we don’t want a far-right government. And I think it’s important also for people to understand that Bolsonaro only won elections four years ago because Lula was in jail and based on false charges. There was no evidence against him, but he was put in jail anyway so he couldn’t run four years ago. And before that, there was a parliamentary coup in 2016 against President Dilma Rousseff. So, that was the context that created the possibility for Bolsonaro to get elected. And now, you know, there is a broad alliance in society to support the candidacy of Lula. So, you know, there is a lot of activism. Many artists are involved with the campaign. And so, Lula was able to build a broad alliance for this election.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Michael Fox, what about the threats of Bolsonaro, similar to Trump, not to accept the results of Sunday’s election? Talk about the polls, what they’re showing right now. It’s not just between the two of them, of course, and there’s like, what, more than — there’s close to a dozen candidates. But one of them has to hit 50% for it to be an outright victory.
MICHAEL FOX: That’s right. So, what we have right now is Lula is roughly 14 to 17 points ahead of Bolsonaro. He’s hovering around 50% of the valid votes, according to the latest polls. So, even though all those other candidates, they have less than 10% — they’re minor candidates. Ciro Gomes would be the one who has the most; it’s around 6 or 7%. So, the big question: Is Lula going to hit that 50% mark? Is he going to be able to win it in the first round? And that is the thing that everyone’s asking themselves.
Now, like you said, the potential for Bolsonaro to come out and say that, “No, I don’t respect these results,” that is absolutely — and most people think that he’s going to follow down Trump’s path, he’s going to do that. He’s been setting the scene for that for the last year and a half. And, in fact, what we saw just two days ago, his party, the Liberal Party, came out and released a document saying that they had audited the electoral, the voting system, and saying that there was the potential for grave fraud. Of course, the electoral court responded almost immediately, putting this in an inside the fake news investigation, calling it absurd. And, in fact, they have now requested from the Liberal Party: Who paid the invoice? Who actually bankrolled this document? Because they think what is happening here is trying to set the scene for, then, Bolsonaro to come out later on and say, “Oh, well, see, I told you it was fraud.” That’s what we’re already seeing. So, this is kind of the general playbook that we’re already expecting. Everybody in Brazil is pretty much expecting this.
The reality behind it is the fact that most of Brazilian society, just they are not on board with the potential for a coup. They don’t want that. Three-quarters of Brazilians said in a recent poll that they want democracy and they’d like to stick with this. And I think that, well, we’re crossing our fingers and hoping that’s what happens.
AMY GOODMAN: Maria Luísa, we’re talking about the, what, sixth- or seventh-largest population in the world, Brazil. This election is extremely significant. Talk about what Lula represents.
MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Yes. Lula is a very popular figure in Brazil, because when he was president, there was a, you know, real change in the lives of people. I think for the first time in Brazilian history, there was a great deal of investment in education, in healthcare, in job creation. So, there was also a lot of support for culture, for the arts. So, I think people saw, in very concrete terms, what — you know, the results of his government. Also, one of the main programs in his administration was the zero hunger program. And now, you know, in a few years of Bolsonaro, Brazil again is in the so-called hunger map, so there was a huge increase in hunger and poverty in the country.
So, also President Dilma, who was also with the Workers’ Party, after Lula, was a very popular president in her first term, before the orchestration of a parliamentary coup. So, the only way the right-wing parties can take power is by, you know, orchestrating those kinds of coups. So, that’s why there is a real fear right now.
But I think at the same time Brazilians — the majority of Brazilians understand that their lives were much better before, and they want those kinds of changes and investments in education, healthcare, culture and the arts.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Brazil’s presidential candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva speaking Monday to his supporters.
LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] Never before in the history of this country have so many parties, popular movements, unions, trade unions, associations of classes, workers and entrepreneurs, liberal professionals, artists, intellectuals, athletes, people of different colors and religions, sexual orientations and political preferences come together in the first round of an election to say, “Enough with so much hatred, so much destruction, so many lies, suffering and so many deaths.” We are going right now, on the 2nd of October, to rebuild the country.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Michael Fox, if you can take off from what Lula is saying? And also talk about the Brazilian rainforest. Talk about the Amazon, the protection of the Amazon, and what has happened to it under Bolsonaro.
MICHAEL FOX: Well, absolutely. The organizing in support of Lula has been extremely important and unprecedented. In fact, many different social movements even joined forces to create what they’re calling these popular committees, these grassroots committees, in neighborhoods around the country. And it kind of takes off the work that was happening under the pandemic to try and respond to the rising hunger, where people were organizing and bringing food and working in solidarity. Well, they’ve now built these grassroots committees, somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 around the country, to organize for Lula and then to continue organizing regardless of what happens. So, it is an extremely important election. Everyone sees it as that.
And I just want to say for a second that it’s not just on the presidential election, but also on like the very local level. You have different social movements, Indigenous peoples, women, Black movements who have an unprecedented number of new candidates that they’re putting out there. So that is really important on the local legislative level.
Now, the Amazon, it has been devastated under Bolsonaro. I think just one thing to point out, if you remember back in 2019, when we had all the huge fires that were going around, people were protesting around the world. Well, the fires this last year were even worse. They’ve been worse consecutively each year. And deforestation in the Amazon is the worst we’ve seen in a decade. And this is because Bolsonaro came in with a promise to push development in the Amazon. He gutted agencies, state agencies, the environment agency, the Indigenous agencies, that in the past had defended Indigenous territories and defended the environment. And he came in, gutted all this.
And his own violent rhetoric of trying to open up the Amazon for development really let loose landowners and miners and loggers and narcotraffickers, and said, “You have carte blanche to do whatever you need to do in the Amazon.” And that’s what they’ve done. The invasions of Indigenous territories spiked 150% just in the first three months of Bolsonaro’s government. And under COVID, basically what happens is they pulled the rug out. Everybody backed off, because everything was isolating. And that’s — the illegal forces really took advantage of that to really move into the territories. Violence spiked. And this is the destruction that’s happening in the Amazon right now.
Now, it’s really important to understand that if you look back just 20 years ago, when Lula came into power, deforestation in the Amazon was even worse than it is today. And within a couple of years, with the help of Marina Silva, his environment minister, he went in, and they were able to enact a series of new measures, policies that cut Amazon deforestation in half within two years. So, there is obviously hope that if Lula is able to win, if he’s able to come back into office, you know, he might be able to reimplement some of these things to push back on the devastation that’s happened in the Amazon up ’til now.
AMY GOODMAN: In August, Jair Bolsonaro formally launched his reelection campaign with an attack on Lula. This is what he said.
PRESIDENT JAIR BOLSONARO: [translated] Our country does not want to take steps back. We don’t want gender ideology in schools. Our country does not want to legalize drugs. Our country respects life from its conception. Our country does not want to become an ally to communism in other countries; a country that wants a president who defends private property, a country that increasingly preaches its people the freedom to raise their children. We are going to talk politics today, so tomorrow no one will prohibit us from believing in God.
AMY GOODMAN: Maria Luísa Mendonça, touch on these themes. Talk about what he’s getting at.
MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Yes. Bolsonaro is part of this global far-right movement, and also he has a lot of support from the evangelical church in Brazil. And he dismantled several policies and institutions that protected women’s rights, that fought against racism in Brazil, and, you know, the arts, the culture. He dismantled the Ministry of Culture and the human rights institutions in Brazil. And he promotes this violent rhetoric. And I think this is another reason why in Brazil what we see, for example, is that he tries to spread fear, fake news and hate.
And what we see is also a broad coalition. In addition to the grassroots movements, the social movements that Michael was talking about, there is also a broad coalition of artists, of musicians. Very well-known artists in Brazil are speaking out and are campaigning for Lula. So, there is a broad coalition.
And so, this is a key moment for Brazil. And we also need international solidarity. For example, in relation to the destruction of the Amazon, we need to look at the role of foreign corporations that benefit from that. And we are not talking about development. We are talking about destruction, destruction of the land, destruction of Brazil’s natural resources. And there are mining companies, agribusiness corporations, financial corporations in the U.S. that benefit from that destruction. So, I think it’s very important for us to build international solidarity, because we will need that, moving forward.
AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed to resolution calling on Brazil to ensure the election is conducted in a, quote, “free, fair, credible, transparent and peaceful manner.” Senator Bernie Sanders sponsored the resolution.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It is imperative that the U.S. Senate make it clear, through this resolution, that we support democracy in Brazil. It would be unacceptable for the United States to recognize a government that came to power undemocratically, and it would send a horrific message to the entire world if we did that. It is important for the people of Brazil to know we are on their side, on the side of democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Fox in São Paulo, your final comments, leading into Sunday’s election in Brazil?
MICHAEL FOX: I just want to say that that resolution from the Senate was so important. I mean, if you look back, in 1964, the coup that happened here in Brazil, the military coup, that was greenlighted by the United States. So, to get a really strong, profound statement from the U.S. Senate, that means a lot. It means a lot to the military here. It means a lot to the business sector. It means a lot in Brazil. And I just say that, look, the mood on the ground is one of a lot of excitement. It’s one of tension. And people are really hopeful that they’re going to see change on Sunday.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Fox, journalist in São Paulo, Brazil, we want to thank you for being with us. And, Maria Luísa Mendonça, Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil, thank you so much for being with us, from the CUNY Grad School here in New York City.
Next up, as a cinema dedicated to documentary film opens in New York City at the DCTV firehouse, its lobby will be dedicated tonight to the documentary filmmaker Brent Renaud, killed in March covering the war in Ukraine. We’ll speak to Jon Alpert and Brent’s brother Craig, as well as the filmmaker Reid Davenport, whose new film about how he sees the world as a person with a disability opens at the Firehouse today. It’s called I Didn’t See You There. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Fire in Freetown” by the Somalian musician K’naan, performing in 2009 in Democracy Now!’s firehouse studio.
The power outage caused by the storm prompted protests in the streets of Havana as several hundred people demanded restoration of electricity more than two days after a blackout hit the entire island.
(Image credit: Ramon Espinosa/AP)
Flaring, the process of burning natural gas escaping from fossil fuel wells, releases five times more methane than previously believed, according to an analysis of most U.S. operations, published Thursday in the journal Science.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Michigan, is based on data collected during 13 flights over three years at the Bakken oil and gas field in North Dakota as well as the Eagle Ford and Permian fields in Texas — which collectively have over 80% of all U.S. flaring operations.
Flaring turns methane into carbon dioxide; while both are greenhouse gases, the former is over 80 times more potent than the latter, in terms of its global heating potential, in the 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere.
“Industry and governments generally assume that flares remain lit and destroy methane, the predominant component of natural gas, with 98% efficiency,” the study states. “Neither assumption, however, is based on real-world observations.”
The researcher simultaneously measured both methane and carbon dioxide at flaring sites.
“If the flare is operating as it should be, there should be a large carbon dioxide spike and a relatively small methane spike. And depending on the relative enhancement of those two gasses, we can tell how well the flares are performing,” explained lead author Genevieve Plant, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan.
As co-author and professor Eric Kort summarized, the researchers discovered that “there is a lot more methane being added to the atmosphere than currently accounted for in any inventories or estimates.”
Specifically, they found that due to inefficient combustion and flares being unlit 3%-5% of the time, the average efficiency rate is just 91%, which works out to “a fivefold increase in methane emissions above present assumptions” and 4%-10% of total U.S. oil and gas methane emissions.
As The New York Times reported:
Riley Duren, chief executive of Carbon Mapper, a nonprofit group that is launching satellites next year that will detect and monitor sources of greenhouse gas emissions, said the findings were not surprising to those who have studied emissions from these oil and gas basins and know the amount of flaring that is done.
But the researchers’ comprehensive survey shows that inefficient flaring “is a more systematic issue,” said Dr. Duren, who was not involved in the study.
Elsewhere in the world, there is little direct observational evidence of flaring efficiency, Dr. Duren said. But globally, he said, “it’s likely the case that combustion and flaring is less efficient than assumed.”
While many campaigners and scientists continue to point to the worsening climate emergency as proof of the need to swiftly transition away from fossil fuels altogether, this research team noted that even improving flaring could have a significant positive impact.
“This appears to be a source of methane emissions that seems quite addressable,” said Plant. “With management practices and our better understanding of what’s happening to these flares, we can reduce this source of methane in a tangible way.”
Fixing the flaring issues to boost efficiency, Kort pointed out in a video about the research, would be equivalent to removing roughly three million gas-powered vehicles from the roads.
The team’s findings align with previous observations by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) — a research partner for the new study. The nonprofit group conducted aerial surveys of the Permian Basin in 2020 and found that roughly 10% of flares were unlit or malfunctioning.
“This study adds to the growing body of research that tells us that the oil and gas industry has a flaring problem,” Jon Goldstein, EDF’s senior director of regulatory and legislative affairs, said Thursday. “The Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management should implement solutions that can help to end the practice of routine flaring.”
The research was published a day after two congressmen introduced a bill that would direct the U.S. Department of Energy to work with industry plus state and local governments to cut methane emissions, and establish a consortium at DOE focused on leak detection and repair (LDAR) efforts.
“2021 saw the highest annual growth rate for methane emissions to date,” noted Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), who is co-sponsoring the legislation with Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.). “This problem is not slowing down and will only increase without action.”
“The Methane Emissions Mitigation Research and Development Act supports innovative LDAR technologies that are needed to dramatically reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry,” Casten added. “We must ensure the Department of Energy has the necessary resources to produce the best possible methane reduction technologies.”
The new study also comes amid finger-pointing over the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline system, which could result in the biggest recorded release of methane emissions — an incident that led at least one climate scientist to call for whoever is responsible to be charged with war crimes.
Given the gas’ global heating potential, United Nations Environment Program Executive Director Inger Andersen said in a statement about a May 2021 report that “cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years.”
A few months later, leaders of the United States and European Union unveiled a global pledge to reduce methane emissions at least 30% by 2030 — which climate campaigners welcomed while also warning that it does not go nearly far enough.
Parties to the Paris agreement are set to meet in Egypt this November for COP27, the annual U.N. Climate Conference. In a potential signal of how that event will go, most governments last week missed a key deadline to update their emissions reduction pledges.
San Francisco airport workers ended a three-day strike Thursday after reaching a tentative deal that includes “significant” pay increases and improved healthcare benefits.
The deal, which still must be ratified by union members, came after around 1,000 restaurant, coffee shop, and bar workers at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) walked off the job to demand better wages and conditions, temporarily shuttering the operations of many of the airport’s food and drink spots.
Represented by UNITE HERE Local 2, the workers noted that they haven’t received a wage increase in three years even as costs of living have surged, forcing many to work more than one job to meet basic needs. The majority of food workers at the airport make $17.05 per hour, the union said — far below the estimated living wage for San Francisco.
“This strike was so worth it to give my family a better life,” said Blanca Gay, a snack bar attendant who has worked at SFO for 30 years. “My son is in college, but he had to switch from full-time to part-time just so he could work.”
“With the raises we won, I can help my son go back to school full-time,” Gay continued. “All the hard work and sacrifice of the strike has paid off for my family.”
The union, which negotiated the deal with the SFO Airport Restaurant Employer Council, called the pay hikes “huge” but said the details of the agreement won’t be released until after the workforce holds a ratification vote on Sunday. In August, 99.7% of SFO food service workers voted to authorize the strike.
“This victory shows the world that fast-food jobs can in fact be good, family-sustaining jobs, and it’s all because workers had the courage to strike,” Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2, said in a statement. “After three years without a raise, SFO’s fast-food workers were tired of working two or even three jobs just to survive — so they took their lives into their own hands and won a better future.”
When we fight, we win! https://t.co/YHkHjDYrCa
— UNITE HERE (@unitehere) September 29, 2022
The strike by SFO workers came amid a broader wave of labor actions across the United States as companies continue to rake in record profits on the backs of their underpaid employees, many of whom have seen their wages eroded by corporate-driven inflation.
Citing data from Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker, journalist Michael Sainato reported for The Guardian earlier this week that “strikes in 2022 so far have significantly outpaced strike activity in 2021, with 180 strikes involving 78,000 workers in the first six months of 2022, compared with 102 strikes involving 26,500 workers in the first six months of 2021.”
Johnnie Kallas, project director for the Labor Action Tracker, told Sainato that “strikes appear to be increasing as we head into the fall.”
“These strikes are being led by workers in the service sector,” said Kallas. “Starbucks workers have organized over 70 strikes so far this year in response to poor working conditions and employer retaliation. Over the past month, thousands of healthcare workers and educators have gone on strike to protest understaffing, low pay, and poor conditions for patients and students.”