Tag Archives: Japan

Why America has a debt ceiling: 5 questions answered

The sky’s not always the limit.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

 

Steven Pressman, The New School

Republicans and Democrats are again preparing to play a game of chicken over the U.S. debt ceiling – with the nation’s financial stability at stake.

The Treasury Department on Jan. 13, 2023, said it expects the U.S. to hit the current debt limit of US$31.38 trillion on Jan. 19. After that, the government will take “extraordinary measures” – which could extend the deadline until May or June – to avoid default.

But it’s not clear whether Republicans in the House will agree to lifting the debt ceiling without strings attached – strings that President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats have vowed to reject. Right-wing Republicans demanded that, in exchange for voting for Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House, he would seek steep government spending cuts as a condition of raising the borrowing limit. Continue reading

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Nobody loved you, 2022

From devastating floods in Pakistan to Italy’s far-right PM to overturning Roe v Wade, this was a year of extremes

By Adam Ramsay  Published 12-30-2022 by openDemocracy

A flooded village in Matiari, in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Photo: Asad Zaidi/UNICEF

How do you turn 365 days experienced by eight billion people – and billions more other beings – into some kind of story?

Maybe you start with some events?

In which case, 2022 was the year that Covid vaccines kicked in. Daily global deaths hit 77,000 on 7 February, and have declined fairly steadily ever since. It was the year Russia invaded Ukraine, the first war between major European powers since 1945. Continue reading

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Outlook ‘Grim’ Halfway Through Global Biodiversity Summit, Climate Groups Warn

“If Global North countries don’t compromise, the consequences will be dire,” said Greenpeace. “One million species are at risk of extinction, threatening the web of life that holds our planet together.”

By Julia Conley.  Published 12-15-2022 by Common Dreams

Primary Forest Alliance at COP15 on December 7, 2022. Photo: UN Biodiversity/flickr/CC

Disagreements over financing biodiversity protection, the piracy of natural resources, and commitments to protect at least 30% of the Earth’s land and water by 2030 are some of the top sticking points at the United Nations’ global biodiversity summit in Montreal, which is set to wrap up in just four days.

Following a walkout early Wednesday by developing nations outraged over the Global North’s opposition to creating a biodiversity fund, one anonymous negotiator at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) wrote in The Guardian that the summit is at risk of amounting to more of what climate campaigner Greta Thunberg has called “blah blah blah.” Continue reading

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War Industry ‘Celebrating Christmas Early’ as House Passes $858 Billion NDAA

“There is no justification to throw… $858 billion at the Pentagon when we’re told we can’t afford child tax credit expansion, universal paid leave, or other basic human necessities,” said the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. “End of story.”

By Brett Wilkins.  Published 12-8-2022 by Common Dreams

Class of 2022 cadets participate in a live-fire exercise as part of their Cadet Field Training. Photo: Matthew Moeller (US Army)/flickr/CC

Peace advocates on Thursday slammed the House of Representatives’ passage of a mammoth $858 billion military spending bill as an early holiday gift for the Pentagon and the weapons corporations who benefit from the United States’ ongoing—but largely forgotten—War on Terror.

House lawmakers voted 350-80 in favor of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with 45 Democrats and 35 Republicans voting “no.”

The new NDAA authorizes an $80 billion military spending increase over the 2022 bill, and $118 billion more than when President Joe Biden took office in 2021. The 2023 allocation is more than the combined military budgets of China, India, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea, according to the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). It’s also more than the annual gross domestic product of countries including Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey, based on United Nations figures. Continue reading

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‘Heartbreaking’ and ‘Pathetic’: US Obstructs Patent Waiver for Covid Tests and Treatments

“There have been at least 290,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the WTO punted on the question of global access to tests and treatments back in June,” said one advocate. “How many more need to die before the U.S. joins the right side of history?”

By Kenny Stancil.  Published 12-6-2022 by Common Dreams

Global health campaigners denounced U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration for refusing to support a temporary suspension of patents for Covid-19 tests and treatments this year, a move that further delays the possibility of securing a World Trade Organization intellectual property waiver aimed at increasing access to lifesaving medical tools in developing nations.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that “over the past five months, USTR officials held robust and constructive consultations with Congress, government experts, a wide range of stakeholders, multilateral institutions, and WTO members.” Continue reading

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Elon Musk’s Twitter is more dangerous than you think

Beyond Musk’s oft-repeated rants about free speech, may lie shadier plans to recoup the $44bn he paid for the site

By Adam Ramsay  Published 11-11-2022 by openDemocracy

The world is burning and Ukraine is trudging into a winter of war. Prices are spiralling and the NHS is limping. The US and Brazil have held the line against fascism, just, while Italy has fallen to the far right. Watching the disastrous takeover of Twitter by the world’s richest bam can feel a little frivolous. So what if it becomes a rich boy’s toy? It often felt like that anyway.

But the thing is, we can’t solve the world’s problems without talking, and social media has become the way we do that. At its best, a space beyond the increasingly oligarch-owned press where citizens of the world can chatter, gossip, joke and revolt; can organise into new collectives and explore new identities and senses of self. At its worst, well, I don’t need to tell you. Continue reading

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Global Military Spending Tops $2 Trillion for First Time in History

“If global leaders actually care about charting a more secure future, then we need a massive realignment in spending priorities,” said one prominent peace group.

By Brett Wilkins  Published 4-25-2022 by Common Dreams

U.S. warplanes and the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan are seen during a deployment in the Indian Ocean on June 32, 2021. (Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0)

Global military expenditures surpassed $2 trillion for the first time ever last year, with the United States spending more on its war-making capacity than the next nine nations combined, according to new data published Monday.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported an all-time high of $2.1 trillion in worldwide military spending for 2021, a 0.7% increase from 2020 levels and the seventh straight year of increased expenditures. Continue reading

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Putin’s attack on Ukraine isn’t going as planned. What will happen next?

With an unexpectedly strong Ukrainian resistance, harsh global sanctions and low morale among Russian troops, we face an unpredictable few months

By Paul Rogers.  Published 3-4-2022 by openDemocracy

Photo: The Resistor Sister/Twitter

Nine days into Russia’s assault on Ukraine and it is clear the Kremlin’s original plan has been derailed. The aim was to move rapidly on the capital, Kyiv, seizing the international airport to airlift troops in, then link with ground forces moving in from Belarus, occupy the city and take down the government in, at most, 72 hours.

From the start, Russia would make a concerted effort to take control of the Ukrainian air space, mainly with missile attacks on air bases, air defences and logistics support. This, combined with troops spread across the whole country, would induce a fear factor to help cower the people of Ukraine into submission, rather like the ‘shock and awe’ approach used by the US at the start of the Iraq War. Continue reading

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‘Senselessly Unjust’: Ex-Chicago Cop Who Killed Laquan McDonald Released From Prison

The Justice Department is facing pressure to bring federal charges against Jason Van Dyke, who served less than half of his 81-month sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder.

By Jessica Corbett.  Published 2-3-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: C. Presutti/VOA

Critics of police violence toward Black Americans expressed outrage as Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago cop who killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014, was released Thursday after serving just over three years in prison for a state murder charge.

“A white officer who murdered a 17-year-old Black child by firing 16 shots into his body is walking free today after just three years behind bars. Think about that. Just three years for a violent, vicious attack that killed a child,” tweeted Kina Collins, a Democratic candidate running to represent Illinois’ 7th Congressional District, which includes part of Chicago.

A Cook County, Illinois jury found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in October 2018. He was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison the following January. The judge’s decision to merge all charges for sentencing was significant because the 16 battery counts each had a mandatory minimum of a six-year prison term.

“An 81-month sentence for the gruesome murder of a child was inadequate in the first place,” said Collins. “For Van Dyke to walk free in less than half that time is senselessly unjust.”

WGN TV reports that Chicago activists “plan on holding a ‘large demonstration’ in Federal Plaza Thursday around 4:00 pm to express their displeasure, with at least 15 social and civil rights groups pledging their attendance.”

Leading up to Van Dyke’s release this week, activists, the NAACP, and political figures have urged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to update the public on an investigation that was announced in April 2015 and to pursue federal charges against the convicted murderer.

“We’ve been crying aloud for federal charges on Jason Van Dyke for the past three years,” community organizer William Calloway told WGN TV. “It shouldn’t take this to happen, to be on the cusp of his release, to get federal charges pressed on him.”

Tracie Hunter, McDonald’s grandmother, said of Van Dyke that “this man doesn’t need to get out. We are seeking federal charges. The time he did wasn’t enough.”

Collins, in her Thursday morning Twitter thread, said that “I’m calling on U.S. Attorney John Lausch Jr. and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene and bring federal charges against Jason Van Dyke to ensure that he is held accountable.”

The congressional candidate also blasted former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Japan. U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) on Wednesday similarly slammed Emanuel’s new post and called for federal charges against Van Dyke.

Bush also shared a letter that NAACP leaders sent to Garland Tuesday which said the “lack of resolution” in the investigation coupled with the release of the “disgraced” ex-cop is “clearly alarming” and “has given rise to very vocal concerns and unrest” in Chicago.

“We trust that you find the matters alarming as well,” wrote NAACP president Derrick Johnson and Illinois State Conference president Teresa Haley, urging Garland to close the investigation and “move forward with appropriate and applicable federal charges based on the federal grand jury findings and other relevant evidence.”

A DOJ spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the department received the NAACP letter as well as one from Illinois’ two Democratic U.S. senators, who wrote to Garland that “the facts of this case remain shocking and upsetting,” and demanded an update on the federal investigation.

As Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary chair, detailed:

In April 2015, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced a joint federal and state investigation into the shooting; however, there was never an announcement that the federal investigation had closed after Van Dyke was convicted of state charges. In October 2019, when activists called for federal civil rights charges against Van Dyke and other officers involved in the cover up of the murder, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to state whether the federal investigation was still ongoing or closed. Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office again declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

Van Dyke’s state conviction and sentencing do not preempt or negate the interest of the federal government, if the evidence supports charging Van Dyke with violating McDonald’s civil rights under Section 242 of Title 18. The recent federal civil rights case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin demonstrates this; after Chauvin was found guilty by a state jury and sentenced to 22 years for murdering George Floyd, Chauvin pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges under Section 242. Chauvin admitted that his willful use of unreasonable force resulted in Floyd’s death. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Chauvin faces a sentence of over 20 years in prison.

“We urge the Justice Department to carefully and expeditiously complete its investigation,” the senators wrote, telling Garland that they “look forward to your prompt report” on the probe.

Collins, in a statement Tuesday, said that “this is a step in the right direction” for the senators, “but let’s be clear: we don’t just need an update, we need charges filed.”

“This is an open and shut case,” she said. “This murder was a clear-cut violation of Laquan McDonald’s civil rights. Just like in Chauvin’s case, the federal charges against Van Dyke should be straightforward. It’s past time for the federal charges to be filed.”

U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, who represents Illinois’ 4th Congressional District, said Thursday that “there can never be justice for Laquan McDonald, but Jason Van Dyke’s early release negates even the small measure of accountability that his conviction provided.”

“Van Dyke’s early release is a slap in the face to our communities, and today I join the call for the Department of Justice to consider bringing civil rights charges against Van Dyke,” García added. “Laquan’s life mattered. Black Lives Matter.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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The time for a four-day week has arrived

A new experiment from Iceland confirms what many of us have long suspected: reducing working hours improves wellbeing and productivity

By Jack Kellam.  Published 7-8-2021 by openDemocracy

Photo: Rawpixel Ltd/flickr/CC

Over the past six years, Iceland has been quietly conducting a major economic experiment. More than 2,500 public sector employees – representing over 1% of the country’s entire working population – reduced their working hours from 40 hours per week to 35 or 36 hours, with no loss of pay.

Trials of shorter working weeks are not new: in recent years a number of ‘four-day week’ experiments have taken place around the world – from Microsoft’s trial in Japan to Unilever’s experiment in New Zealand. But Iceland’s two trials, which took place between 2015 and 2021 among employees of the country’s national government and Reykjavík City Council, are unparalleled in terms of scale and scope. Progress was meticulously monitored by Icelandic researchers, which generated an unrivalled amount of evidence on the impact of shorter working hours. This week the key findings were published in a joint report published by Alda (Association for Sustainable Democracy) and Autonomy. Continue reading

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