Banned Russian oligarchs exploited UK secrecy loophole

BBC World News - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 14:34
How Russian oligarchs from Vladimir Putin’s inner circle exploited a UK secrecy loophole left open by the government.
Categories: World News

China to flex muscles after Pelosi visit to Taiwan

BBC World News - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 14:33
China is gearing up for military exercises following top US politician Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan.
Categories: World News

Emi Nietfeld is done reaching for redemption in 'Acceptance'

NPR - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 14:27
Penguin Press

The memoir is not a phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes tale. Instead, Nietfeld refuses silver linings and focuses on the toll of contorting oneself into a "perfect, deserving" victim.

(Image credit: Penguin Press)

Categories: World News

Viktor Orban alone in Europe but among friends in Texas

BBC World News - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 14:23
The controversial Hungarian leader will be warmly received when he addresses US Republicans.
Categories: World News

Peru PM resigns as investigations target President Castillo

CNN World News - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 14:16
Peruvian Prime Minister Anibal Torres Vasquez has abruptly resigned, becoming the fourth premier to leave the job in the past year.
Categories: World News

Biden's national security advisor doubles down on Taiwan policy after Pelosi visit

NPR - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 14:08
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

The President's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan discusses the war in Ukraine, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, and the U.S. drone strike that took out al-Qaida's leader.

(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Categories: World News

The U.S. has sanctioned Vladimir Putin's long-rumored romantic partner

NPR - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 14:06
Russian President Vladimir Putin hands flowers to Alina Kabaeva after awarding her with an Order of Friendship during a ceremony at the Kremlin in June 2001.

Rumors of a relationship between Putin, 69, and Alina Kabaeva, 39, date back more than a decade. Putin and the former Olympic gymnast are thought to have had at least three children together.

(Image credit: Sergei Chirikov/AFP via Getty Images)

Categories: World News

Pelosi's Taiwan trip leaves Asian countries nervously awaiting China's response

NPR - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 13:59
A plane carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her  delegation departs Taipei on Wednesday.

From the Philippines to Singapore, countries are worried the status quo could turn from tension to conflict. Southeast Asia especially feels the strain of living in the shadow of U.S.-China rivalry.

(Image credit: Taiwanese Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Categories: World News

NFL appeal opens the possibility for a longer suspension for Browns QB Deshaun Watson

NPR - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 13:55

The NFL is appealing a disciplinary officer's decision to suspend Deshaun Watson for six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy over sexual misconduct allegations.

(Image credit: Nick Cammett/AP)

Categories: World News

New Poll Says Democrats Lead GOP by 7 Points in Generic Congressional Ballot

TruthOut - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 13:40

New polling from Monmouth University shows that Democrats are faring better in general than Republicans when it comes to who Americans believe should control Congress.

The poll, conducted between July 28 to August 1, asked respondents who they preferred to be in charge of the legislative branch. Democrats attained decisive support from 38 percent of respondents, with another 12 percent saying they leaned toward Democrats. Republicans, meanwhile, received 34 percent support, with an additional 9 percent saying they leaned toward them.

Overall, when general support for either party was combined with respondents who leaned each way, 50 percent of Americans say they want Democrats to control Congress after this year’s midterms – a 7 point lead over Republicans’ 43 percent.

This is a significant gain for Democrats over the past few months. In June, the two parties were tied, with each having 47 percent support, the Monmouth poll from that month showed, while in May, Republicans had a 2-point advantage over Democrats. And earlier this year, in January, it was Republicans who actually led Democrats by 7 points.

The polling lends evidence against what political scientists typically observe within a president’s first term. Often, the president’s party expects to lose seats in Congress and likely lose control of one or both chambers. But, though President Joe Biden’s popularity has sunk significantly since he assumed office, the poll shows that Democrats have a chance at overcoming historical patterns this fall.

Issues like abortion and gun violence may be buoying Democrats’ chances, some observers believe. The possibility that former President Donald Trump may announce a run for president for a third consecutive election cycle could also be lending Democrats a hand; despite Biden’s unpopularity in polls so far in his tenure, Trump still loses against Biden in hypothetical 2024 matchups.

Other polls have shown a similar deviation from the expectation that Democrats will flounder this election cycle. According to an aggregate of polling data from RealClearPolitics on Wednesday afternoon, the two parties are essentially tied on who Americans want to win control of Congress in the midterms, with the GOP attaining 44.7 percent on average across several major political polls, while Democrats garner 44.4 percent.

Polling isn’t a precise science and things could change between now and November — a political gaffe from one of the parties’ leaders or an expected campaign announcement from Trump could rock the election. Polling in 2016 and 2020 also showcased real problems with how pollsters predict who will win.

Still, polls can be indicative of how the public will vote. At this point in the 2018 midterm season, for instance, RealClearPolitics’s polling average suggested Democrats were 6.9 points ahead of Republicans, or nearly exactly the gap found in Monmouth’s poll. When the election rolled around, the final result was close to that prediction, with Democrats beating Republicans by 8.4 percent nationally.

Categories: World News

Ukraine war: UN chief Guterres slams oil and gas firms' 'grotesque greed'

BBC World News - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 13:40
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says it is "immoral" to profit from the energy crisis.
Categories: World News

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski dies in a car crash

NPR - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 13:35
Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., was killed Wednesday in a car accident in Indiana.

The 58-year-old Republican lawmaker was killed Wednesday in a car accident in her northern Indiana District, according to her office. Three others also died in the crash.

(Image credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Categories: World News

How to Access Abortion Pills by Mail — and What to Know When You Do

TruthOut - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 13:09
This article first appeared in The Appeal’s weekly newsletter. Sign up here.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade accelerated efforts to criminalize abortion in the United States. Laws banning abortion have gone into effect in at least eight states since the decision came down in late June. More states are expected to restrict access soon.

But there is one abortion method states will have a hard time eradicating: medication abortion. The abortion pills available — mifepristone and misoprostol — are safer than Tylenol and have been approved by the FDA since 2000. They are only recommended for use up to 12 weeks of pregnancy though, so abortion pills will only help people who are still early in their pregnancy. Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, preventing the pregnancy from continuing to grow in the uterus. Misoprostol causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus. Misoprostol is available over the counter in other countries and is also used as a treatment for ulcers.

“People deserve to have access to clinic support regardless of what state they live in,” said Ushma Upadhyay, an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco who studies abortion, medication abortion, and telehealth abortion services. “Health is a basic human right and should be accessible to everyone.”

While states may ban abortion altogether — or specifically ban telemedicine, self-managed abortions, or sending abortion pills in the mail — practically speaking, these bans will be difficult to enforce. Illegal drugs like fentanyl and LSD are frequently sent through the mail and federal and local governments have generally not been able to stop it.

“How are they gonna stop people from getting it in the mail?” said Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, an abortion fund and reproductive justice organization that assists people in the Deep South. “You can’t stop abortion. You can’t stop people from being pregnant and not wanting to be pregnant. That’s what history shows us.”

We talked to experts and put together this brief explainer on how to access abortion pills by mail, the legal risks, and how to protect yourself from them.

Can I Get Abortion Pills by Mail?

It depends on where you live. At least eight states have banned most or all abortions. More state bans are expected soon. Nineteen states have passed restrictions that effectively make it impossible to obtain abortions by telemedicine in that state. Some states, including Louisiana and Tennessee, specifically criminalize sending abortion pills in the mail, while others, such as Arizona, make it illegal to deliver abortion medication.

For details on what is legal in your state, check state guides from news sources or organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher Institute, the Center for Reproductive Rights, or the Kaiser Family Foundation. If you have questions, you can always call the Repro Legal Helpline to speak to an attorney for free.

In over 20 states, you can obtain abortion pills legally through telemedicine or an in-clinic visit. These days, many people prefer using telemedicine for abortion services because it is often more convenient and private than an in-clinic visit, said Upadhyay. With telemedicine, patients often do not need to find childcare or travel long distances to see a healthcare provider, and they don’t have to risk running into someone they know or being hounded by anti-abortion protesters outside of a clinic. Places that offer telemedicine for abortions include HeyJane, Just the Pill, Choix, Carefem, Abortion on Demand, and Pills by Post.

If you live in a state where you cannot obtain an abortion, you can still get abortion pills by driving to the nearest state where telemedicine is legal, taking your appointment there, and sending the medication to an address in that state, like the hotel you’re staying at. Another method involves using mail forwarding services to ship abortion pills to an address in a state where it is legal, then redirecting the mail from that address to your actual home address. Plan C, an information campaign run by public health advocates and social justice activists, has step-by-step accounts on its website detailing how mail forwarding and other options work.

“We have reports from patients in restricted areas — one in Texas who used the service to have pills mailed to a friend in Illinois, who then mailed it to her,” said Upadhyay, who is currently completing a study looking at the safety of three telehealth clinics, which analyzes data from over 6,000 patients. “We know that patients are getting creative. Patients are having the medications mailed to a post office box just across the border, like New Mexico if they’re from Texas. Or they’ll get a hotel room near the border and do the telehealth appointment.”

Another way to obtain abortion pills in restricted states is to use Aid Access, a nonprofit founded by Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts. Aid Access connects patients in restricted states with doctors in Europe, who fill prescriptions for abortion medication using a trusted pharmacy in India, which sends the pills by mail. The medication typically arrives in one to three weeks and costs about $110, though financial help is available for people who need care but can’t afford it.

“Aid Access is reliable, credible, and will mail to addresses in restricted states,” said Upadhyay. “It’s very safe and very effective. My concern is that patients often want support when they’re going through an abortion. My fear is that people will go to emergency rooms in larger numbers and will be criminalized that way.”

Some online pharmacies also will ship abortion medication without a prescription from a doctor. Plan C lists pharmacies they have tested pills from and verified that orders did contain the correct medication. However, they do not operate the pharmacies and cannot vouch for the continued authenticity of those pharmacies.

Whatever route you choose, help is available. Organizations have stepped in to keep abortion accessible, even if your state has banned it. So if you get an abortion and have any concerns along the way, you can contact M+A Hotline (833-246-2632), a confidential and secure phone and text hotline for people who need support with abortions or miscarriages that is staffed by volunteer licensed clinicians. If you have legal questions, you can contact Repro Legal Helpline (844-868-2812), a free, confidential helpline. If you need financial assistance, you can contact your local abortion fund or call the National Abortion Federation Hotline (800-722-9100), a toll-free, multi-lingual hotline for abortion referrals and financial assistance in the U.S.

What Are the Risks?

Abortion pills are safe for up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to the World Health Organization. They may not be a safe option under certain circumstances, such as when a person has an ectopic pregnancy, a blood clotting disorder, significant anemia, or an intrauterine device (IUD).

People who obtain an abortion in states where it is banned also risk criminalization. While most abortion bans currently target providers, three states — Oklahoma, Nevada, and South Carolina — do explicitly ban self-managed abortions. And even when Roe was in place, police and prosecutors often found creative ways to criminalize people for their pregnancy outcomes. According to an analysis by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), over 1,700 people were criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes between 1973 and 2020. Prosecutors across the country have charged people who have had stillbirths or miscarriages with child abuse, murder, manslaughter, drug use, improper disposal of fetal remains, and misuse of a corpse. If a friend in another state sends you the pills, they may be at risk of criminalization as well.

People who obtain abortions are often criminalized when someone else reports them to the police. This could be a provider, a relative, or an ex-partner. If you obtain an abortion in a state where it is banned, you can minimize your risk of criminalization by telling as few people as possible and only people you trust.

“When it comes to legal risk, what we know from cases that we have already seen is that people often face legal consequences when they share information about their pregnancy outcomes with people and those people then report them to the police,” said Elizabeth Ling, senior helpline counsel for If/When/How, nonprofit, reproductive-focused legal aid network that runs the Repro Legal Helpline.

“The legal risks really depend on a person’s specific situation, as well as their identity,” Ling added. “The risk of criminalization is and always has been greater for those communities who have experienced greater state surveillance in this country: Black people, people of color, indigenous people, marginalized people, disabled people, and LGBTQ people.”

You do not need to disclose having an abortion to your provider. Abortions and miscarriages are indistinguishable from one another, so you can get help from a healthcare provider without telling them you terminated your pregnancy. If you have questions about your abortion as you are experiencing it, you can contact the M+A Hotline by phone or text.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Keep the number of people you tell about your procedure to a minimum, and only tell people you trust. Lean on the resources available to you via the M+A Hotline and the Repro Legal Helpline if you have any questions. Practice good digital safety and security by opting out of targeted advertisements, using search engines like DuckDuckGo that do not save your searches to their servers, using encrypted messaging apps like Signal, turning off location sharing on your devices, and using strong password protection on your devices. The Digital Defense Fund has a detailed guide full of helpful digital security tips to keep your healthcare choices private. So does the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

It is important to use browsers that do not store your search history and messaging apps that keep your conversations private because prosecutors have used people’s search history and text messages against them in the past. In 2018, prosecutors used an internet search for misoprostol to charge a woman with second-degree murder. In 2015, prosecutors used text messages to convict a woman for feticide and child neglect.

“I would implore folks to use encrypted messaging apps, to be careful who they share information with, and to protect their digital security and digital footprint and be very intentional about that,” said Dana Sussman, acting executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a legal organization that defends the rights of pregnant people from criminalization. “Contact us or contact trusted resources to get information. Do not turn over your devices to law enforcement. Make them get a warrant.”

Categories: World News

Sanders Slams Manchin for Swapping Paid Leave for Oil Handouts in Reconciliation

TruthOut - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 13:03

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to point out glaring problems and inadequacies with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which Democratic leaders recently announced after months of negotiations with coal millionaire Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

Warning about looming fascism and runaway capitalism in the U.S., Sanders harshly criticized Manchin and Democrats for excluding crucial provisions in the bill that were part of last year’s Build Back Better Act (BBBA), while inserting massive handouts to the fossil fuel industry in the face of a worsening climate crisis.

The roughly $433 billion bill, which was crafted from the framework of the BBBA, is much smaller than its predecessor – which, even at its lowest negotiated value, was at about $1.75 trillion. When Manchin killed the bill last year, Sanders heavily criticized the move at the time, and similarly said on Tuesday that the presumed death of the BBBA is “a disaster for the working families of our country who, today, are desperately trying to survive.”

While pointing out that polls have found that the BBBA and its various proposals were popular, Sanders noted that many of its provisions were carved out of this year’s reconciliation bill. Provisions like paid family and medical leave, the expanded child tax credit and universal pre-kindergarten would have helped to throw families a lifeline in the COVID economy, Sanders said. He added that the BBBA would also have addressed nationwide issues like soaring college tuition and prescription drug prices, skimpy Medicare coverage and the housing crisis.

However, Manchin and other lawmakers have slashed or completely eliminated those provisions. While the new bill does take some action on prescription drug prices, it will only allow Medicare to negotiate the price of some prescription drugs – not all drugs, as early versions of the BBBA would have done. And, while it would cap insulin prices at $35 a month for people with health insurance, it would do nothing for those without health insurance, Sanders pointed out.

Though he gave limited praise to provisions of the IRA that would extend and expand the Affordable Care Act, the Vermont senator said that the proposed health care provisions do not go nearly as far as needed to resolve major health care shortages in the U.S.

“This bill does nothing – absolutely nothing – to reform a dysfunctional, broken health care system which is based on the greed of the insurance industry, does nothing to address the fundamental crisis of the United States paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for health care, while over 70 million of us are uninsured or underinsured,” he said. “Doesn’t even touch that.”

Sanders also said that, while there are laudable clean energy provisions in the bill, it is far smaller than what the BBBA had proposed to tackle the climate crisis. Worse, the bill contains large concessions to the fossil fuel industry which climate advocates say would almost completely undermine the provisions aimed at reducing emissions.

“The very bad news that very few people in the media or in Congress want to talk about is that this proposed legislation includes a huge giveaway to the fossil fuel industry – both in the reconciliation bill itself and in a side deal that was just made public yesterday,” Sanders emphasized.

The proposed bill is so friendly to the fossil fuel industry that corporate executives from companies like Exxon have said that they’re pleased with the bill. Another huge concession that the bill contains is a mandate for the Interior Department to continue selling oil and gas leases annually over the next decade any time officials want to approve new wind or solar projects.

“Under this legislation the fossil fuel industry will receive billions of dollars in new tax breaks and subsidies over the next ten years on top of the $15 billion in tax breaks and corporate welfare that they are already receiving,” Sanders said. “In my view, if we are going to make our planet healthy and habitable for future generations, we cannot provide billions of dollars of tax breaks to the very same fossil fuel companies that are destroying the planet.”

The senator concluded by saying that, after months of secret negotiations between Democratic leaders and Manchin, “now is the time for every member of the Senate to study this bill thoroughly and to come up with amendments and suggestions as to how we can improve it,” he said. “I look forward to being part of that process.”

Categories: World News

Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit Stoked Tensions With China. What Comes Next?

TruthOut - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 12:58

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has left Taiwan after a series of high-profile meetings with Taiwan’s pro-democracy president and other lawmakers. Pelosi’s visit made her the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years and stoked tensions with China, prompting the nation to announce it would carry out new air and naval drills and long-range live-fire exercises in six areas around Taiwan beginning Thursday. The Quincy Institute’s Michael Swaine says President Biden should have done more to prevent the visit and uphold the One China policy, calling the move a “basic violation of the understanding that the United States and China reached at the time of normalization.” Taiwanese American journalist Brian Hioe rebukes Swaine’s claims, saying progressives should focus more on the desires of the Taiwanese than trying to cater to the whims of the two imperial powers of the U.S. and China, adding that the Taiwanese are not threatened by China’s retaliatory military escalation. “We cannot act as progressives or leftists seeing things in a bipolar world, seeing no other agency from any other force,” says Hioe.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has left Taiwan after a series of high-profile meetings that increased tensions with China, making her the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Pelosi met with Taiwan’s president and Taiwanese lawmakers. Their encounter was partly broadcast online.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: It’s really clear that while China has stood in the way of Taiwan participating and going to certain meetings, that they understand that they will not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan. It’s a show of friendship, of support, but also a source of learning about how we can work together better in collaboration.

AMY GOODMAN: Pelosi discussed economic plans, including a possible trade deal between Taiwan and the United States, and met with key pro-democracy activists. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said she welcomed Pelosi’s visit.

PRESIDENT TSAI ING–WEN: The speaker’s presence here in Taiwan serves to boost public confidence in the strength of our democracy as a foundation to our partnership with the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, China responded to Speaker Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in part by announcing plans to carry out new air and naval drills and long-range live-fire exercises in six areas around Taiwan beginning Thursday. Taiwan said the military exercises are, quote, “tantamount to an air and sea blockade of Taiwan.” This is a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

HUA CHUNYING: [translated] The relevant actions of the Chinese military are a deterrent to the separatist forces in Taiwan and are justified. You mentioned the issue of the navigation in the waters. We have never seen any problems with the freedom of navigation in the waters. I think you should pay more attention to how U.S. warships and military aircraft have come so far right up to China’s doorstep to show off their force.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as the U.S. is holding a massive military training exercise in the region with Indonesia, Australia, Japan and Singapore for the first half of August, with 5,000 soldiers on the island of Sumatra. This is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, Charles Flynn.

GEN. CHARLES FLYNN: With all of the technical and procedural aspects of this, it’s just a really important expression of our teamwork and our interoperability and our — our unity, really, as a group of nations that are — seek to continue to have a free and open Indo-Pacific.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by two guests. In Taipei, Taiwan, Brian Qiu Qixin Hioe is with us, Taiwanese American journalist, founding editor of New Bloom magazine. And in Washington, D.C., Michael Swaine is director of the Quincy Institute’s East Asia Program, longtime U.S.-China relations analyst. His books and briefings include America’s Challenge: Engaging a Rising China in the Twenty-First Century.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! Brian Hioe, let’s begin with you. You’re right there in Taipei, where Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, has just left along with her congressional delegation. Can you talk about the significance of this trip?

BRIAN HIOE: That’s right. And so, as mentioned, this is historic in the sense of this has not taken place in 25 years. But what is also interesting is that there has been such a large response. Under the Biden administration, there has more been the pattern of announcing these kind of visits after they take place. This gives China less of a window to react. But news of this broke much earlier, once there was a scoop by the Financial Times. And so, then, there have been weeks of discussion.

But I think that what is interesting to note, or what is significant to note, is that while Taiwan would directly be in the line of fire from China, there is actually not panic the way there was in the international world, and much discussion of. I think there’s not a lot of attention paid to that, Taiwanese and their own threat assessment of what this will lead to. And so, we’ll see about the exercises, because China claims it will only last for three days, and it does want to play them up as blockade now, but that is to be questioned.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Brian, what’s your sense of the reaction within Taiwan among the Taiwanese people to — and the government, as well, to Nancy Pelosi’s efforts? There have been some reports that even within the Taiwan government, there were concerns about her visit.

BRIAN HIOE: Well, I think the general public was not actually aware that this was really taking place until very recently. There is even a joke on the internet nowadays that people thought Pelosi was the name of a typhoon, that something was coming, it could cause chaos, but it was a typhoon. And so, now this visit’s happened.

But there’s also a question under what circumstances it took place. There was a report from a very pro-China media outlet, which has been reporting on — is taking funding and editorial direction from the Chinese government directly. The report claims that Taiwan tried to turn down Pelosi, to disinvite her, fearing the dangers, but that Pelosi was still insistent on going. That’s hard to say. It’s hard to know the veracity of this report. But the Taiwanese government is not in a position to say no to the U.S., even when it comes to issues that might put it in the line of fire.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’d like to ask Michael Swaine — here we are less than a year since the disastrous end of the 20-year U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, just six months since Washington’s efforts to expand NATO triggered the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a conflict that’s destabilized the entire world, pushed us closer to nuclear war. Why would our political leaders risk at the same time a new confrontation with China, our planet’s rising economic power and its most populous nation?

MICHAEL SWAINE: Well, that’s an excellent question. I’m not sure I know the answer to it, why they would want to do this at this time. I think the administration was not, in truth, terribly happy about Nancy Pelosi’s decision to take a congressional delegation to Taiwan at this time, but they certainly knew about it well in advance, and they could have done a lot more to try to discourage it, but they did not. And I guess, from what they’ve been saying since her visit there, that this is really no big deal, there’s no difference here between what she’s doing today and what’s happened in the past, that they think the Chinese will sort of shrug and say, “OK, well, I guess, no big deal.”

But, of course, that is not exactly what’s happening. You’ve got, if anything, the reverse. The Chinese have embarked on, as you said in your setup, a series of military actions here that rival or exceed the military actions that they took back in 1995, ’96. And it’s very hard to see how the Pelosi visit has helped or advanced Taiwan’s security in light of this kind of Chinese reaction.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you give, Brian, some background to the relationship between China and Taiwan? I think a lot of people are watching this all over the world. The historic background, the precise nature of the relationship between China and Taiwan, and how similar is it to Hong Kong?

BRIAN HIOE: Yeah. So, it is a sort of different circumstances, but, as you can imagine, facing the threat of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have long seen common circumstances in each other. So, Taiwan is settled by Indigenous and Han settlers from previous centuries of migration. But as we know it today as the Republic of China, as it’s officially known, though many do not like that name, it is because of the KMT’s defeat in the Chinese Civil War. It brought with it what are the descendants of which are 10% of the population. Around 80%, 70% were from prior waves of migration. And so, there have been people in Taiwan for hundreds of years. And Taiwan was only incorporated into China under the Qing dynasty. And that’s only part of it.

So, that’s not surprising then that why people in Taiwan often have a different sense of identity from China. And the KMT, when it came to Taiwan, tried to depict Taiwan as having always been part of China. This is similar to what the PRC claims today as part of its very modern territorial claims over Taiwan. The PRC did not always, in fact — you can even quote Mao on this, Mao Zedong — make claims over Taiwan. But this issue now is contested in part because of geopolitics, because if China wants to expand its power outward into the Asia-Pacific, Taiwan is something it wants. And there’s also the desire for, for example, Taiwanese semiconductors or its resources and that sort of thing, because China is itself highly reliant on Taiwanese semiconductors for manufacturing, for its own supply lines. Even, according to some reports, they are present in the very missiles that China has pointed at Taiwan.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael, would you share Brian’s analysis of the past and the relationship between Taiwan and China?

MICHAEL SWAINE: Well, what Brian said is — as far as it goes, is fairly accurate. But I think the important point here is to understand what the larger context is of the relationship and the understanding reached between the United States and China regarding Taiwan at the time of normalization back in the 1970s and recognition in 1979. At that time, China and the United States basically reached an understanding over Taiwan, which was a very contentious issue at the time, and in order to try to neutralize that issue, the Chinese basically made a statement that they would pursue peaceful unification as a top priority. They wouldn’t give up the possibility of use of force, because they regard Taiwan as sovereign Chinese territory, and a sovereign state can exercise military force over its own territory. However, they said, “We will no longer seek to liberate Taiwan by force as our policy. We’re going to try a peaceful unification for years and work on that.” By the same token, China said, “OK, we recognize that China is the legitimate government — the PRC is the legitimate government of China, and we do not challenge the claim by China that Taiwan is a part of China.” Now, they didn’t say they officially recognized, in a legal sense, Taiwan as part of China, but they said they don’t challenge it. So, what you had here was the One China policy, peaceful unification.

Now, what’s happened since that time is there’s been a steady erosion on both sides in the level of their apparent commitment to those original pledges. And Nancy Pelosi’s trip, this latest trip, represents yet another movement away from the different understandings and stipulations and procedures that were basic to the One China policy that the United States had been pursuing for years. She flew over to Taiwan on an official U.S. military jet, that looked like Air Force One. She described her visit in Taiwan as an official visit. She publicized it in a very major way, unlike Newt Gingrich, who went as speaker of the House 25 years ago to Taiwan. Newt Gingrich went to Beijing first. He stopped in Taiwan very briefly and then moved on. The Chinese didn’t like it then. But now what Pelosi has done is much larger scale than this, much higher publicity, much more the trappings of an official visit. And that is really a basic violation of the understanding that the United States and China reached at the time of normalization, as I say. And there have been a lot of other developments over the years —

BRIAN HIOE: I’d like to cut in here, actually. So, can I ask —

MICHAEL SWAINE: — that have moved Taiwan closer and closer to the U.S.

BRIAN HIOE: Can I ask, actually, why we are talking about a 50-year-old agreement without talking about the wishes of the Taiwanese people in the slightest, justifying that the present actions China takes are somehow justified towards Taiwan because of these two imperial powers — the U.S. and China — deciding on the fate of Taiwan? I think there’s often a misperception that Taiwanese people are irrational, pursuing independence at all costs, even if this means regional conflict. But I think that if you look at the way Taiwanese people vote, it’s pragmatic, the path that they think will avoid conflict, will allow to retain their democracies. And so, I don’t know, then, why we’re talking about 50-year-old treaties by imperial powers, as though this were the left-wing or progressive position here.

MICHAEL SWAINE: Well, the point here is not so much what the Taiwanese themselves are saying in this regard. What I was just saying was about the United States —

BRIAN HIOE: So, then, it doesn’t matter, huh?

MICHAEL SWAINE: — and U.S. policy. The issue here — my point is the One China policy and the peaceful reunification agreement and understanding provided Taiwan with decades of stability and development. And that sort of relationship —

BRIAN HIOE: Under authoritarian rule, though, backed by the U.S.

MICHAEL SWAINE: — should continue. It should continue. And right now shifting on both sides, by both the Chinese and by the United States, away from this original understanding is actually weakening security for Taiwan. It’s undermining Taiwan’s own security. The Taiwanese don’t want changes in the status quo. They want a continuation of the status quo, and that’s not what they’re getting. They’re not getting that with Nancy Pelosi.

BRIAN HIOE: So, will that occur? I mean, you look at the fate of Hong Kong. You look at increasing Chinese threats directed at Taiwan. Even if Taiwan — you just claim as though if it do nothing, and then things would be all right. That’s not the case. China actively tries to undermine Taiwan. For example, there are Taiwanese that are kidnapped by China. For example, Lee Ming-che was one of the people that Pelosi met with today. Obviously this is political stunt, but there’s that. You look at the police crackdown in Hong Kong, the detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and these do not offer alternatives that Taiwanese people think of as peace. China is a power that is expanding. It wishes to expand. It wishes to challenge the U.S. It is modeling itself after the U.S., even using anti-terror discourse drawn from the U.S. war on terror. And so, then, why do you think that China would simply allow Taiwan to let live? That’s not how imperial powers work.

MICHAEL SWAINE: I don’t generalize to imperial powers, across the board, they all behave as such. I don’t want to get into that kind of argument, because you get into all kinds of exceptions when you talk about that. But in this particular case, I think the issue is what best serves Taiwan’s security interests over time. If you assume that the Chinese have absolutely —

BRIAN HIOE: And so, have you talked to Taiwanese people about what they think is best in their interests?

MICHAEL SWAINE: If you assume that the Chinese have absolutely no interest whatsoever in maintaining — in avoiding a conflict over Taiwan, that they’re just basically preparing to attack Taiwan, seize it and hold it, then we are in a different kind of situation from what we have been in for the last many decades. And I would not assume that the Chinese are developing or focused primarily on a policy of invading, seizing and holding Taiwan. They’re not stupid. They understand that that would be a huge roll of the dice. What they would prefer to do is to establish a relationship with Taiwan that was one in which Taiwan became increasingly inclined towards dealing with the mainland in some political way and could resolve the situation peacefully. That’s what they’d like.

Now, the Chinese have not been doing things that make that more likely. I’m not letting the Chinese off the hook here. I’m saying that the Chinese themselves have also been doing things that have been changing the status quo. Yes, they have been raising concerns in Taiwan and in the United States. And the United States has, in turn, responded to this by doubling down on deterrence. So what you have on both sides now is a heavy emphasis on military deterrence, heavy emphasis on worst-case outcomes, very little real communication about Taiwan and where Taiwan’s status lies and how you can stabilize the country. You’ve got this posturing going on and this positioning going on between both sides that is not serving the interests of Taiwan at all.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: If I can, if I can ask Brian, following up on this issue of the rest of the world not taking into account the aspirations of the Taiwanese people: If the Taiwanese people do wish, the majority of them, for independence from China, is it the responsibility of the United States to defend Taiwan’s viewpoints? Why should the United States be the country that is constantly the policeman of where democracy is expressed in the world?

BRIAN HIOE: Well, has it been? I mean, the U.S. backed authoritarian dictatorship in Taiwan for decades under Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo. And now, in the present, Taiwan is a geopolitical chess piece for the U.S., to be traded off perhaps, or it raises stakes for negotiations. That was very visible under Donald Trump. You know, some idealized him in Taiwan. And then, now, the present, the view from Americans is that, “Well, we should just fork over Taiwan to China,” that this is the way to keep peace. It seems very convenient logic for people from an imperial power in order to always maintain this.

So, what is the outcome that we hope for? It is not conflict on either side. There will be enormous losses, Taiwanese or Chinese — more Chinese perhaps, in fact, based on some of the estimates — of an invasion. So, how do we avoid this outcome? But we cannot assume that China will be an active rational actor here, when it’s increasingly authoritarian. Xi Jinping’s interests are not those of the Chinese people. For example, provoking a crisis, losing an enormous amount of — tens of thousands of young people, that might be the way for Xi to maintain power. It might be the way to expand power for him. It cannot be, then, just assuming that the CCP will act rationally, always just hoping for Taiwan to become willing to join with China, because what we see is that it takes a velvet glove approach sometimes, offering economic incentives; at the same time, it tries to set examples, which we see in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, authoritarian repression, drilling in the South China Seas, territorial claims disputed with other Southeast Asian countries in the area. And so, there is that. This world is not just that of between the U.S. and China. And we cannot act, as progressives or leftists, seeing things in a bipolar world, seeing no other agency from any other force. We need to think of ways out of this binary. And I don’t see that happening.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’d like to follow that up, Michael Swaine, this issue of that we shouldn’t see this as a bipolar world. Where are the rest of the nations of the world and the United Nations when it comes to the issues of Taiwan and China and a One China policy?

MICHAEL SWAINE: Well, what we see is that the majority of countries in the world have either not challenged or have explicitly accepted some variation of a One China policy — that is, that they have recognized that Taiwan is a part of China, or they have not challenged that point. America and its closest allies have adopted very similar positions on that. Very few countries in the world recognize Taiwan as an independent state. There are a small handful countries, primarily in Central America. Most countries do not see Taiwan as a sovereign, independent state, and they don’t want to get embroiled, however, in the China-Taiwan conflagration or confrontation. They want to have good relations with both China and with Taiwan, so they don’t want to backstop actions that could really upset the stability of the situation now and lead to crisis or conflict. But, unfortunately, that is the direction in which we’re moving because of the kinds of calculations and the worst-casing and the zero-sum sorts of approaches that are being adopted by both the United States and China.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. I thank you so much for being with us. Of course, we’re going to continue to follow this issue. Michael Swaine, director of the Quincy Institute’s East Asia Program, and Brian Qiu Qixin Hioe, Taiwanese American journalist and editor of New Bloom magazine, speaking to us from Taipei.

Next up, Senate Republicans reverse themselves again, after being humiliated by both comedian Jon Stewart and U.S. vets, and they agree to join Democrats in passing a bill to aid U.S. vets poisoned by the Pentagon’s use of toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ll talk about the impact of these burn pits on both U.S. vets and on Iraqis. Stay with us.

Categories: World News

After Kansas defeat, what's next for abortion bans?

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While the battle to ban abortion in Kansas may have been lost, the fight continues across the US.
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Parents of a child who was killed are seeking millions in a defamation trial against the radio host.
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Mickelson and other pros sue over PGA suspensions for playing in LIV Golf events

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Phil Mickelson lines up a shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., on Friday.

Players who defected to Saudi-funded LIV Golf filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, the first step in a legal fight that could define the rules of where players can compete.

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Categories: World News

Ron Johnson Aims to Put Social Security “On the Chopping Block” White House Says

TruthOut - Wed, 08/03/2022 - 11:50

On a podcast on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) said that he believes Social Security and Medicare should be turned into discretionary spending programs – a move that would require Congress to pass a bill each year in order to fund them and likely lead to massive conservative-led cuts to the programs.

Currently, both programs are funded automatically. But Johnson said he wanted more oversight on them, and that he believes that the best way to do that is through required funding debates annually in Congress. “What we ought to be doing is we ought to turn everything into discretionary spending so it’s all evaluated so that we can fix problems or fix programs that are broken,” Johnson misleadingly said.

If his plan were to happen, which is unlikely, it would likely lead to huge partisan budget battles each year, with a possibility of cuts in funding to the social spending programs — and thus potential cuts for beneficiaries.

These programs, however, are not “broken” or facing a huge funding problem at the moment – from 1983 to 2021, for instance, Social Security raised a surplus every year. In its most recent year, the program did run a deficit, but that was offset by funding reserves from previous years.

Even if the programs were facing funding issues, holding yearly debates over their existence could lead to cuts, and vast detrimental effects on its recipients and society at large. Both programs were first introduced in order to provide a crucial social safety net for seniors, disabled people and other vulnerable populations; Social Security is consistently one of the most popular government programs and, while in dire need of upgrades, has allowed millions of people to retire and avoid poverty. Medicare, meanwhile, has saved countless lives and experts say that cutting it would be disastrous.

Many lawmakers believe that the programs need better funding mechanisms for the future – Social Security is projected to not be solvent any longer by the year 2034, for instance – but conservatives often bring up their funding mechanisms as a cover for cutting the programs.

Johnson’s office has denied that he was suggesting making cuts, but Republicans have for years tried to use the possibility of these programs becoming non-solvent as a means to implement drastic cuts to them, or eradicate them entirely in favor of a privatized version of them that would come at the detriment of those in need.

If there are problems with Medicare and Social Security funding, experts say that they are problems concerning budget shortfalls. Economists have for years stated that the best way to ensure continued funding for Social Security and Medicare is to lift tax caps on the wealthy.

Currently, only the first $147,000 of a person’s income is subject to the Social Security tax. That means a person earning more than that is paying a far smaller tax rate than people making under that threshold — a person earning $1 million in income per year pays less than 1 percent of their income to the program, for instance.

By “scrapping the cap” entirely, the program would not only be solvent, but benefits could also be raised, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said in June. Oversight can happen in other ways beyond what Johnson has suggested, if he even is suggesting that the programs should be improved rather than cut.

Critics lambasted Johnson’s calls for changing how Social Security and Medicare are funded.

On its official Twitter account, the White House stated that “congressional Republicans like @SenRonJohnson want to put Medicare on the chopping block.”

“That would devastate families,” the White House added.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) also spoke out against Johnson’s plan, stating that he and other Republicans are “saying the quiet part out loud” when it comes to their intentions for social spending programs many rely upon.

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the presumptive Democratic nominee set to challenge Johnson in this year’s senatorial race in the state, also took aim at the Republican.

“Wisconsinites pay into Social Security through a lifetime of hard work, and they’re counting on this program and Medicare — but Ron Johnson just doesn’t care,” Barnes said.

Johnson has made a number of controversial statements over the past year. A longtime denier of the climate crisis, Johnson called it “bullshit” during a meeting with state Republicans earlier this summer. Johnson also pretended to be on a phone call in June in order to avoid questions from reporters regarding his congressional office’s involvement in trying to pass on lists of “fake” electors from Wisconsin and Michigan in 2020 to then-Vice President Mike Pence, ahead of the certification of the Electoral College.

Johnson, perhaps demonstrating that his desire to significantly alter social spending programs is not an anomaly, also suggested in March that Republicans would likely resume trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act if they win back Congress this year and the presidency in 2024, in spite of its popularity among most Americans.

Polling on Johnson’s and Barnes’s race this fall shows that it’s a tight race. The two are statistically tied with one another, per the margin of error in a Marquette University Law School poll conducted last month, with Barnes just slightly ahead by 2 points.

Johnson also has a net-negative favorability rating among Wisconsinites. According to that same poll, only 37 percent of his constituents give him a favorable grade, while 46 percent say they view the two-term senator unfavorably.

Categories: World News