1. New Texas law targets more than reproductive rights
Texas’s SB8, a sweeping anti-abortion bill, has generated a great deal of anger and despair, but figuring out how to take action isn’t necessarily easy. SB8 allows private individuals to sue anyone who may have aided in some way to a post-six-week abortion. The law deliberately attempts to avoid constitutional equal protection guarantees by making the plaintiffs in such suits individuals, rather than law makers or law enforcement. Anyone who successfully sues an “abortion assistant” (a car driver, someone who spoke on an information phone line, someone who helped a friend or relative pay for the procedure, etc.) is guaranteed that all court costs will be borne by the individual sued. In addition, in successful suits, the plaintiff may receive up to $10,000 in punitive damages from the individual sued. There are no provisions to cover court costs for those who are forced to defend themselves because of such suits—even if those suits prove to be groundless, even vindictive.
Among the shocking news about SB8 is how many corporations donated to those who sponsored it. AT&T has donated $301,000 to the bill’s sponsors over the last several years. CVS Health, which tweeted “At #CVSHealth, we’re working together to support the unique health needs of women at every age,” donated $72,500, Anthem, which recently tweeted about the importance of gender equity, donated $87,250. As Newsweek points out, many of these are companies who in other venues express their commitment to women’s rights and women’s health. The largest contributor was a group of wealthy Texans, “Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR),” which donated $2.3 million, according to Popular Information.
As our readers may well have concerns over SB8, we have developed a comprehensive list of companies who were implicated in its passage. The information is divided into three sections. The first section offers mailing addresses for Texas-based companies, so you can ask what they’re doing to respond to SB8 and tell them how you’re feeling about their products at this moment. The second section offers mailing addresses for companies outside of Texas that have made substantial donations to the Texas legislators who sponsored SB8. The final section offers mailing addresses for companies that are taking action in resistance to SB8 and who deserve thanks. Choose the companies you’re most familiar with (or most pissed at) and help demonstrate that depriving individuals basic rights is no way to build brand loyalty. S-HP
We can write the Department of Justice to thank them for filing suit to block SB8, arguing that it violates the “equal protection under law” provision of the 14th Amendment: Merrick Garland, Attorney General, U.S.Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20530-0001, (202) 514-2000. @TheJusticeDept.
2. Confirmed: Black Lives Matter protesters were targeted
Black Lives Matter protesters were systematically targeted by police and federal prosecutors during the Trump era, according to a new report jointly produced by The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of more than 50 activism and advocacy civil rights groups, and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) clinic at City University of New York School of Law. The report points out that former President Trump and former Attorney General Barr consistently pressed for federal charges to be laid, charges which carry stiffer penalties than state charges. It compares the disparate police responses to Black Lives Matter protests and anti-mask/anti-vax protests, and explains that policing and prosecutions of BLM protesters drew heavily on Joint Terrorism Task Forces and counter-intelligence operations, NPR notes.
Both M4BL and CLEAR are calling for amnesty for protesters as well as reparations, and for the introduction of the BREATHE Act, according to NPR, which would remove funds from traditional policing and incarceration, Vox notes, and would instead fund new approaches to community safety. The BREATHE Act is supported by progressive Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Thus far, elements of the BREATHE Act have been incorporated into HR 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, according to Insider.com; the House Judiciary Committee has produced a fact sheet on what the bill would do. The Act was passed by the House but is stalled in the Senate, according to NPR. RLS
If you want to support the principles underlying Black Lives Matter, tell your Representative that you want to see the four elements that would be in the Breathe Act introduced as comprehensive legislation: • divesting from incarceration and police, • community safety funding initiatives to try new approaches, • money to build “Healthy, Sustainable & Equitable communities,” • accountability of officials and enhancing self-determination of Black communities. In addition, you could call on your Senators to move the Justice in Policing Act forward.
3. Drone strike that killed seven children in Afghanistan targeted the wrong man
The US drone strike that killed seven children in Afghanistan may very well have targeted the wrong person, according to the New York Times. An investigation of the security footage reveals that Zemari Ahmadi was most likely not a terrorist planning to bomb the airport but an aid worker returning home. The many errands that US intelligence found suspicious were stops he made in the course of his job and the packages he brought into his house were water bottles, not ammunition.
A YouTube video posted by the Times clearly shows Ahmadi’s activities and his household. Ahmadi worked for Nutrition and Education International, an aid group based in California that taught 125,000 farmers in Afghanistan to grow soybeans, delivered millions of meals to malnourished children there and mentored women farmers to support their independence. Ahmadi and his cousin Nasar, who was also killed along with his children, had both applied for refugee resettlement in the U.S. Interviews with colleagues and friends indicated that Ahmadi had no links whatsoever to terrorist activities. The Times quoted his brother as saying, “All of them were innocent. You say he was ISIS, but he worked for the Americans.” RLS
The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.
4. Humanitarian crisis in Syria intensifies
After 11 years of civil war, the humanitarian crisis in Syria is deepening, according to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR); the many factors–political violence, displacement, loss of infrastructure, destructive weather–behind the crisis are described here. “Political violence” is an understatement: “The Syrian government has tortured 14,000 Syrians to death, and 130,000 Syrians are missing or remain ‘arbitrarily detained,’ the New York Times reported in July, in the course of explaining why the Biden administration has imposed sanctions on Syrian prisons and prison officials.
The UNHCR explains that in 2011, the violent government repression of protests in support of teenagers arrested for anti-government graffiti sparked a civil war. Millions of people were displaced from their homes but remain inside Syria, while millions of others fled to nearby countries. The population is traumatized by violence and impoverished by lack of work; many Syrian children have been unable to obtain an education for 10 years. In Northwest Syria, political violence has been especially acute, forcing many to leave their homes in 2019-2020. Devastating weather in Idlib destroyed some 25,000 tents and food supplies and left tens of thousands of families homeless.
The coordinator of emergency relief for the UN, Martin Griffiths, recently visited Syria and the surrounding countries hosting approximately 5.6 million Syrian refugees; he maps his concerns in this report. Currently the UN and other aid agencies can only meet 27% of the need. Griffiths said that people in the province of Aleppo asked for the restoration of basic services and the ability to meet basic needs: “Health care, water, electricity and fuel to keep warm in winter. Children want to learn, and young adults want to work. They want support to forge their own dignified path to a better future.” RLS
The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.
In addition, you could contact Congress and call for aid to Syria through humanitarian NGOs that serve people and that aren’t representatives of any of the specific forces involved in the Civil War. Find your Senators here. Find your Representative here.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
5. Treatments and “treatments” for COVID
It would be hilarious if it weren’t tragic. People with COVID have flocked to Ivermectin, which has never been shown to be a viable treatment, while declining to take the vaccines which have been proven effective or to request monoclonal antibody treatment, which has been approved by the FDA. Prescriptions for Ivermectin–which is used for human parasites and skin diseases such as rosacea–have risen to 88,000 per week, according to the New York Times, while some people who cannot get prescriptions have used veterinary formulations, leading to a five-fold rise in calls to poison control centers.
How did Ivermectin come to be thought of as a COVID treatment? Slate explains that a group called America’s Frontline Doctors is partially responsible. They are actual doctors but they are not actually on the front lines; that is, they are not in hospitals treating COVID patients. They promote unproven cures as a way of promoting their practices, according to Slate, and they may get a cut from speakwithanmd.com, a telemedicine website that provides prescriptions for Ivermectin. As Slate puts it, “Health misinformation is a super profitable business.”
Safer–and way more effective–is treatment with monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies work by mimicking the action of the immune system. Although the FDA has pulled its approval for the first two in use (bamlanivimab and etesevimab), as they are significantly less effective against the variants of COVID, still others are notably viable, Daily Kos points out. The FDA just approved an emergency use authorization (EUA) for another monoclonal antibody, sotrovimab, authorizing its use among patients with mild-moderate COVID symptoms who are at high risk for severe COVID. In a randomized controlled trial of 583 patients, the FDA reported, among those who were given sotrovimab, there was an 85% reduction in the number of patients whose COVID progressed to hospitalization or death compared to those given a placebo.
Health Canada has also approved sotrovimab, along with casirivimab and imdevimab, two earlier monoclonal antibody treatments also approved by the FDA. In the U.S., the National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends that where there are logistical challenges to administering monoclonal antibodies, unvaccinated patients should be prioritized, as well as vaccinated patients who may not be able to launch an immune response. The NIH also provides guidelines and a rationale for administering them. Given their effectiveness, why are monoclonal antibodies not more widely used? It may be because they are only effective in the 10 days following the emergence of symptoms, explains Scientific American, and patients may wait too long to seek treatment. Because they are administered through an injection or an infusion, hospitals may be too overwhelmed with even sicker COVID patients to see them. RLS
The 20th anniversary of 9/11 brought out a number of important analyses and painful memoirs. Heather Cox Richardson’s 9/11 column is notably good in the way that it reviews the ideology that emerged immediately after the attacks and connects that ideology to the current movements to suppress the vote.
Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change. Note in particular their suggestion to tell your Governor to stop playing politics with kids’ health. Apropos of which, note the CDC report from May that describes how masks and vaccines reduce transmission in schools.
The Americans of Conscience checklist is preparing to relaunch–but they would first like to know what is on your mind. You can take their survey here.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.