A year after Joe Biden’s inauguration, things seem bleak. Despite the existence of life-saving vaccines, tests and masks, on January 21, more than 3,000 people were reported to have died of Covid-19, and the last time daily deaths were below 1,000 was in August. With the more transmissible Omicron variant spreading like wildfire, and only 63% of the country with two doses of the vaccine (only 43% of adults with their booster), things may continue to get worse before they get better. Hospitals are filled to the brim while schools and industries deal with absences. Clearly, we need a policy reset. We need to provide people with the resources and information they need to get through this surge and the rest of the pandemic.
The Biden administration has recognized things are not going well and has caved to demands to provide free tests and free masks. But these come with caveats: The tests are a one-time delivery, limited to four per residential address, and must be ordered (either online or through the phone). The masks will be given out at pharmacies and community centers across the country, but we are looking at a one-time distribution of three masks per person. These programs come with a number of problems: Four tests are not enough for one person alone—22% of households have more than five people in them, and Latino and Native American households in particular are overrepresented in this group. And while a hotline was set up to reach those without internet access, how will those people find out about the hotline to begin with? When it comes to distributing materials through pharmacies, there are communities that lack access to pharmacies: rural areas and Black and Latino neighborhoods in cities.
There is a better way, and it was proposed by then-candidate Joe Biden in 2020. As part of the Biden-Harris plan to tackle Covid-19, the campaign proposed the creation of a 100,000-strong U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps. In the words of the campaign, such a force would ensure “contact tracing reaches every single community in America” and that corps members “should come from the communities they serve.” Such a force was never created and, in the meantime, public health departments have struggled to deal with the increasing workload, with staff quickly burning out.
Does Joe Biden even remember what he promised?
It wasn't a lot. But apparently even that little amount is too much for him to remember. I guess the brain's completely shot.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday:
24 January, the High Court granted Julian Assange the right to appeal
to the Supreme Court, seeking review of the decision that could allow
for his extradition to the US. Assange’s legal team now has 14 days to
file an application with the Supreme Court, which could take several
months to decide whether it will accept the case for review.
If accepted, the Supreme Court would consider matters related to the US government’s provision of diplomatic assurances regarding Assange’s treatment, which were filed only prior to the appeal stage of proceedings, meaning the assurances were not scrutinised in the evidentiary portion of the extradition hearing. The High Court granted permission for Assange to file an application on this ground due to the lateness of the US government’s provision of these diplomatic assurances.
“We welcome the High Court’s decision to allow Julian Assange the right to appeal his extradition case to the Supreme Court. This case will have enormous implications for journalism and press freedom around the world, and could be hugely precedent-setting. It deserves consideration by the highest court in the land. We very much hope that the Supreme Court will indeed accept the case for review,” said RSF’s Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent, who was present in court for the hearing.
This decision follows the High Court’s ruling of 10 December 2021 by the same judges, overturning the District Judge’s decision of 4 January 2021 barring extradition on mental health grounds. The High Court had ruled in favour of the US government’s appeal, on the basis of the diplomatic assurances provided regarding Assange’s treatment if extradited.
RSF believes that Assange has been targeted for his contributions to journalism, as Wikileaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked classified documents in 2010 informed extensive public interest reporting around the world, exposing war crimes and human rights violations that have never been prosecuted. If he faces trial in the US, Assange would not be able to argue a public interest defence, as the Espionage Act lacks such a provision. Assange’s prosecution would set a dangerous precedent that would have lasting implications for journalism and press freedom around the world.
RSF is also gravely concerned by the state of Assange’s mental and physical health, which remain at great risk in conditions of prolonged detention in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison – risks that would be severely exacerbated if the US succeeds in securing his extradition. In December it was revealed that he had suffered a mini-stroke in prison during the appellate hearing, and in January it was reported that Covid infections were again on the rise in Belmarsh prison.
The UK and US are respectively ranked 33rd and 44th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
MS. PSAKI: Again, this is under the purview of the dem- — the Department of Justice, so I don’t have any comment from here.
Q Thank you. On the Palin-New York Times case — I know you can’t maybe speak specifically to the case, but does the White House have any concerns about threats to press freedoms, to press access, to the limits of the First Amendment protection?
MS. PSAKI: I obviously can’t speak to the case, so I appreciate you saying that at the top.
I will say that I think the President has shown that he respects the value of the freedom of the press. He obviously took a step earlier this year to ensure there couldn’t be a replication of actions that had been taken over prior administrations, as it related to journalists. So, I think that speaks to his commitment, but I don’t have any more comments on the case.
We previously discussed a major ruling restoring the defamation lawsuit of Sarah Palin against the New York Times over a false claim related to the shooting of former United States Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Now, the New York Times is trying to introduce footage of Palin on “The Masked Singer.” The effort to introduce the video would seem to have no probative value and clearly is meant to ridicule Palin.
The case concerns an editorial by the New York Times where it sought to paint Palin and other Republicans as inciting the earlier shooting. The editorial was on the shooting of GOP Rep. Steve Scalise and other members of Congress by James T. Hodgkinson, of Illinois, 66, a liberal activist and Sanders supporter. The Times awkwardly sought to shift the focus back on conservatives. It stated that SarahPAC had posted a graphic that put Giffords in crosshairs before she was shot. It was false but it was enough for the intended spin: “Though there’s no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.”
The editorial was grossly unfair and falsely worded. Indeed, the earlier opinion began with a bang: “Gov. Palin brings this action to hold James Bennet and The Times accountable for defaming her by falsely asserting what they knew to be false: that Gov. Palin was clearly and directly responsible for inciting a mass shooting at a political event in January 2011.”
Fox News' Peter Doocy asked the president whether he thought inflation would be a "political liability" ahead of November's midterm elections. Biden's reaction was caught on a hot mic.
"That's a great asset, more inflation," Biden said. "What a stupid son of a b----."
Moments before, Biden groused about fielding questions on the deepening crisis in Ukraine instead of being asked about the White House Competition Council meeting, which focused on the administration's efforts to promote economic competition and drive down prices for consumers.
Having laid bare the US empire as a never-ceasing conveyor belt of war crimes, Assange exposed Washington’s lies of “nation building” in Afghanistan and Iraq as a vast “money laundering” operation.
And yet, as his legal case progressed, it was clear that the Wikileaks founder’s heroism was resulting in his slow murder via multi-state judicial corruption. In response to this remarkable case, in one of many examples of journalistic malfeasance, Chris Brown, in his report for the CBC’s flagship news program “The National,” falsely asserts that Assange “leaked” the cables that contained the infamous Collateral Murder video. Brown, a long-time CBC correspondent, can presumably distinguish between publishing and leaking. Determined to confuse the viewer, Brown fails to mention the role of whistleblower Chelsea Manning (Assange’s source) and through conflation taints the journalistic credentials of the man who exposed torture at Guantanamo.
Brown knows quite well that publishing leaks is the backbone of national security journalism with the quotidian apparatus of “legacy” newspapers like the New York Times, providing potential whistleblowers with technical instructions on their websites for evading detection. That’s why, as CBC fails to inform the viewer, the Obama administration chose not to prosecute Assange (a decision later reversed by Trump’s Department of Justice or DOJ). Due to what it deemed the “ New York Times problem,” such a precedent, Obama’s DOJ concluded, could be used against fellow elites.
Now in the hands of Biden’s DOJ, this clear case of selective prosecution by the US and its colluding vassal state, the UK, has been denounced by legal experts, a swath of trade unions and activists. And while one can reliably count on Canada’s public broadcaster to ignore grassroots campaigns, what’s remarkable is that the CBC’s reporting on this historic case sinks below even the corporate media’s degraded standards.
When tens of thousands of young people took to the streets of Baghdad and towns and cities across southern and central Iraq in late 2019, one core demand resonated louder than any other — employment opportunities.
The country, which had only recently emerged from decades of tyranny, siege, war and insurgency, had delivered precious little for the generation of young Iraqis who came of age in the years after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Two years on from those protests, which fizzled out with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, and under the brutal heel of repression meted out by Iraq’s powerful militias, young Iraqis say nothing has changed.
“If anything we’re worse than when we started,” Rashid Mansour, a hairdresser from west Baghdad, told Arab News. “Neither me nor my cousins can afford to stay here. We all work part time. Just like the country, we’re all just getting by.”