Rulings and Reparations, Colltalers
The scary but thoroughly expected explosion of new COVID-19 cases in the world has a common cause, the rush to restart economic activity even if people are dying as a result of it, and a disheartening realization: the coronavirus is now an integral part of our near future. But a vaccine may not be.
Meanwhile, constitutional decisions in Israel, Hong Kong, and Russia may further erode human rights and the ability of democracy to truly represent people. That’s why the Black Lives Matter uprising has been so crucial exposing the racist complacency of American society. Now, to reparations?
But let’s start with the proposed settlements of lawsuits brought up against Bayer and Johnson & Johnson over two of their cancer-causing products. Bayer offered $10.9 billion to settle 75% of 125,000 cases against its subsidiary Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup. And J&J agreed to pay $2.1 billion in damages for people who got cancer from using its asbestos-suffused talc product. As noted, other lawsuits against the same products will continue.
Don’t get too impressed with the amounts, though, or expect either company to give up or stop pushing those products to impoverished communities and minorities. Even as lawyers have been already paid millions, corporations always try to slash the compensation awarded to its harmed customers.
Furthermore, in the case of Bayer, it’s had the help of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to whom Roundup does not cause cancer, despite all evidence. And J&J, which like Bayer has issued statements supporting the BLM movement, is working hard to deny the allegations. They shouldn’t, people died
using their products. But it’ll be enlightening to watch how they will wiggle out of their social responsibilities. For they certainly will.
To provide clarity about the law of the land is why there’s a Supreme Court. But the current term presided by Justice John Roberts doesn’t seem to see it that way, at least as far as immigration is concerned. After granting a temporary but much-needed reprieve to thousands of children born in the U.S. to foreign parents, the so-called Dreamers, it made a 180° turn and gave the Trump administration rights to fast-track deportations of asylum seekers. It contradicts not just last week’s decision, but the very principle of habeas corpus, the jurisprudence basis supporting the naturalization of immigrants.
The president suffered a defeat on another front of his quest to further isolate the U.S., though, not by the court but by a federal judge: ICE, Trump’s border enforcer agency, must release all immigrant children it holds by July 17, as coronavirus cases increase in its detention centers. But as the ruling falls short of also granting freedom to their parents, due to legal constraints, it remains to be seen how these forced orphans will fend for themselves.
A quick note about things falling from the sky. Starting with a bigger-than-usual Sahara plume arriving over the U.S. that may aggravate COVID-19 symptoms. Also, a study on Science about the estimated 1,000 tons of microplastics – equivalent to over 123 million plastic water bottles – raining down on the U.S. each year. And then locusts taking over air space over Gurugram, India, a kind of terrifying event that’s popular among bible readers.
The virus has crashed through the 10 million-case threshold, with over 500 thousand dead by it. But that hasn’t changed how the U.S. and Brazil, leaders of the ‘Welcome Virus’ pack, and India, are handling the crisis: that is, doing nothing and wishing that underreporting new cases will help it to go away.
Within days, Chinese lawmakers may pass a new security law that outlaws political protest and crushes dissent in Hong Kong. It’ll be the end of the political independence and democracy on the island, which for a century helped China moved from a rural economy to an industrialized superpower.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may present his plans to annex about 30% of the West Bank as soon as July 1, even as António Guterres, U.N. Secretary-General, has warned that’s ‘against international law’ and may destabilize the region. Palestinians and most of the world seem to agree.
And in Russia, the government is on an all-out campaign to promote a week-long, single-vote referendum that raises pensions and minimum wage, and bans gay marriage, among other things. Oh, and it also resets President Vladimir Putin’s term limits. If approved, he may remain in power until 2036! At 84 then, few believe he will. But since he’s been on top for 20 years already, don’t bet the voting machines he won’t. These three decisions will hurt the world.
The BLM uprising has turned racism, police brutality, and social inequality into issues relevant to all Americans, but the movement has to keep the pressure on if it is to lead to real change. Even considering the relative brevity of this new spike of awareness, it’s time to be concerned about passing laws that effectively keep the momentum going. And one of the ways that that may happen is having far-reaching goals to achieve. Thus, reparations.
We applaud the decision by the Mississippi legislator to take down its 126-year-old state flag with the Confederate symbol on it. It’s a step in the right direction. But beyond that, what used to be a non-starter in discussions about the plight of African-Americans is now considered a possible solution to reboot race relations in America. Reparations are the fastest way to bridge four centuries of inequality and rescue black families from a life of poverty.
The pandemic and the way the administration gave away half a trillion dollars to corporations, no questions asked, while shortening aid to its victims shows that what’s been missing is not resources but political will. There’s no need to print money, just slashing the staggering defense budget will do it.
A 10% cut in the U.S. military budget – which is larger than the next 11 nations combined – for education, healthcare, and poverty programs is what Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed last week. But one doubts he’s willing to murder Mitch McConnell, the only way such a plan could be approved.
‘How our labor is used (…), who we’re working for, and who benefits from the labor of our lives.‘ These are some of the questions tech workers should ask themselves according to ex-NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden. Speaking on a teleconference about technology and surveillance, he was referring to recent actions of dissent by industry workers. But he could as well be thinking about his evil twin Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.
Unlike Twitter and other social media, which have taken (timid) steps to curb fake news and support to criminal misconduct that the capo at the White House often does, the Zuck instead has reportedly held private meetings with him and other Republicans about his reelection, just as he did in 2016.
Here’s something else to remind us that life is precious and that we should keep an eye on the sky, just in case: June 30 is Asteroid Day, when we’ll be informed on what’s being done to prevent a civilization-ending impact. For dust, plastic, and locusts, a hardhat suffices. But it’s much harder to divert a giant supersonic rock. People are more likely to be hit by one than by lightning and in 2036, Earth will be visited by one that may actually hit us.
As we now know, Putin may be the president then, of an ember and cinder world, no doubt. Trump’s reelection may anticipate that. So, work against it. Sunday was Pride Day, sadly with no NYC Gay Pride Parade to celebrate its 50th anniversary. But we do, so here’s to the LGBTQ community. Ba-bye. WC